Google training censorship police in India

Google is training police in India on how to find “objectionable” material and remove it from Google properties including Orkut.

Google’s activities in India previously drew international headlines when Google provided local police information leading to the arrest of Rahul Krishnakumar Vaid for posting to an Orkut group named “I hate Sonia Ghandi.”

The new initiative sees Google training “cyber police” in most “tier 1 and 2” cities in India, and offering police a “priority reporting tool” that sees any objectionable content flagged by police being reviewed faster than standard objection flags.

The interesting part lies in the credit for the program: Google India is quoted in local press reports as saying the program is “very much its own initiative.” Vinay Goel, head of products for Google India spins it this way

“You don’t want to stifle the freedom of speech and yet, [you do want to] ensure that people are working within legal boundaries, are within the sensitivities of that culture. So if you find something offensive, flag it. We will review it. We have very specific terms and conditions and if that is violated by the user, we will bring it up. This model has worked well.”

No details were provided on what would occur if objectionable material warranted legal attention, but given police will have the skills to find such material, Google will be complicit in any future criminal cases that result from this program and training.

Unlike many in the blogosphere I’ve long defended companies such as Google and Yahoo when they are compelled to comply with local laws that many may find offensive, particularly regarding free speech. No country is perfect, and tech companies should work within the legal frameworks of the countries they operate in.

However, there’s complying with local law, and then there’s being complicit in the enforcement of those laws by training local authorities. It’s a step way to far. Google’s don’t be evil policy has been replaced by lets train evil and lets get warm and comfy in bed with those who stand against free speech. It’s appalling that Google would be training local police in this way, and this time at least, they deserve international condemnation for it.