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Google and India Test the Limits of Liberty


Source : http://online.wsj.com

The rules of political speech on the Internet are usually pretty simple. In America, almost anything goes. In places like China, the censors call the shots. But in India -- a boisterous democracy that's riven by religious and ethnic tension -- the game is far trickier, as Google is discovering.

In September, lawyers at Google Inc.'s New Delhi office got a tip from an Internet user about alarming content on the company's social networking site, Orkut. People had posted offensive comments about the chief minister of India's southern state of Andhra Pradesh, who had died just a few days earlier in a helicopter crash.

Google's response: It removed not just the material but also the entire user group that contained it, a person familiar with the matter says. The Internet giant feared the comments could heighten tensions at a time when thousands of mourners of the popular politician were emptying into the street.

The incident shows the treacherous terrain Google must navigate as it expands in India, the world's most-populous nation after China and a major growth market for Web searches, online advertising and mobile phone software. As Google broadens its reach, it must increasingly tweak the way it operates to suit new cultures. While authoritarian countries pose well-known challenges, Google is learning that even democracies such as India can be fraught with legal and cultural complications. Its experience here could serve as a precedent for other Web companies.

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Created by Kevin 32 weeks 5 days ago
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