Judge drops Microsoft from objectionable content case in India

A judge found that the plaintiff had not pointed to objectionable content on Microsoft's websites

Civil suit claims that Microsoft websites hosted objectionable content were dismissed Thursday in India after the company showed that no such content was on its websites.

Mufti Ajiaz Arshad Qasmi, the plaintiff, confirmed in a telephone interview that Microsoft had pointed out to a judge in Delhi that none of the evidence of objectionable content he had produced on a CD and other records before the court were from the company's sites.

Qasmi, a private citizen, had filed a civil suit against Microsoft and other Internet companies including Google, objecting to certain content on their websites that among other things mocked religious figures and Gods worshipped in India. He is also pressing the companies to put in place technology for filtering out content that is considered objectionable. The case against the other companies will continue.

"The case [against Microsoft] was not maintainable because there is no cause of action," a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

Google earlier this month agreed before the Delhi court to remove religious and other content considered objectionable, as the step was in accordance with the Internet giant's long-standing policy of responding to court orders.

Google India has argued in a separate criminal suit in another Delhi court that it is not responsible for third-party content. Google also noted that in any case the sites are not owned and operated by Google India but its parent company, Google Inc. Newspaper editor Vinay Rai filed that suit against objectionable content on websites of 21 Internet companies including Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

The criminal case, however, holds Google and other companies responsible for the third-party content and also named officials of the companies as liable, thus invoking issues relating to the liability of intermediaries in the case of offensive content. The civil case is entirely about removal of certain content.

India has been sensitive to certain political and religious content on websites, and the Minister for Communications Kapil Sibal said in December that Internet companies should evolve a mechanism to remove objectionable content immediately after it is put up. The government allowed the court to prosecute the Internet companies under various Indian laws in the criminal case. Google and some others have appealed the court's decision before the Delhi High Court.

Microsoft is likely to argue that it should not be a party to the criminal case, because the content from its websites is not exhibited on the CD or records containing evidence of objectionable content that was produced by the plaintiff, according to a person close to the situation. The CD and other exhibits in both cases are the same, Qasmi said.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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