US-based Google LLC has told the Delhi High Court that names and identities of its designated officers in India cannot be disclosed publicly as they have been appointed to coordinate with government authorities with regard to removal of illegal content as per law or disclosure of user information. Google said that disclosing names and identity of the designated officers would defeat the purpose of appointing them as they would be “distracted and encumbered” by pubic dealing which in turn would “diminish” their ability to timely and effectively respond to urgent government requests.
The submissions were made in its affidavit filed in response to a PIL by former RSS idealogue K N Govindacharya seeking directions to Google, Facebook and Twitter to disclose information about their designated officers in India as required under the Information Technology (IT) Rules.
The petition, filed through advocate Virag Gupta, has claimed that in the absence of details of designated officers, there is “no clear mechanism to enforce justice”. Opposing the contention, Google has said that neither the IT Act nor the rules framed under it direct notifying the designated officers.
They only provide that such designated officers be put in place for coordinating with the government authorities, it added. It has said that for addressing grievances of the users of its services, it has appointed a grievance officer whose details are publicly available at –https://www.google.co.in/intl/en/contact/grievance-officer.html.
Govindacharya has also sought directions to the Centre to ensure removal of fake news and hate speech circulated on the three social media and online platforms. Google, which provides a variety of internet related services like a search engine and an online video streaming platform (YouTube), has denied the petitioner’s claims of arbitrary regulation of content and said that it has a set of policies which regulate content that are clearly objectionable and inappropriate. It also said that the policies are based on internationally recognised principles, are not arbitrary and are in addition to the grievance redressal mechanism for legal complaints as provided under the Information Technology (IT) Act and rules framed under it.
“For instance, under the YouTube Community Guidelines there are specific policies for violent and dangerous content on the YouTube platform such as hate speech. As per the hate speech policy, a user is prohibited from uploading any content which promotes or condones violence or promotes or incites hatred on the basis of factors such as religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, gender and age,” it has said. It has further said that any content which violates its policies on hate speech or fake news are removed and in case of repeat violations, the user account in question is terminated. It has also denied the petitioner’s allegations that Google India has not disclosed its proper revenues to avoid payment of taxes and that Google LLC has unlawfully accessed personal data of Indian citizens or that it unlawfully disclosed any data pertaining to national security. It has contended that these allegations are “false, baseless and an attempt to smear its global reputation, goodwill and business”.