This article was published on April 17, 2012

Pressure mounts on Facebook in India with a new content complaint and a request for a local server

Pressure mounts on Facebook in India with a new content complaint and a request for a local server

Facebook is about to see its service come under more pressure in India, where a new complaint over content has been lodged and a high profile politician has suggested it should introduce a local server.

The social network already has plenty on its plate in India, where it is one of six Internet sites being prosecuted for hosting offending content on Indian Web space, but it now has more issues to contend with.

As Times of India reports, India’s CID (Crime Investigation Department) has written to the social network to request that “morphed” images of chief minister Mamata Banjeree are removed, alongside a number of specific posts and “objectionable comments”, following a complaint.

The CID is requesting that the social network provides the IP addresses from where the pictures were posted, as it seeks to track down the perpetrator.

Facebook has traditionally been reluctant to help authorities in India, at least publicly, and it remains to be seen how the site will respond. It took a number of court hearings until it deleted the content at the centre of the ongoing legal case, and that may spur it to cooperate faster this time.

BlackBerry smartphone-maker RIM recently set-up a dedicated India service and, with Facebook’s servers hosted outside of India, the company is being pressured to consider a local facility of its own.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot is reported to have “drawn a lot of attention” at the Chief Ministers Conference where he said that Facebook, and other Web firms, should set up local servers to allow authorities to respond faster when “miscreants” post inappropriate comments online.

“I would appreciate if these site could develop a system which by itself prevents posting of material with communal and anti-national overtones,” he said. “As the servers of these social networking sites are located outside the country, it becomes an arduous task to obtain any information related to such incidents.”

India’s IT minister Kapul Sibal has previously lamented the inability of India’s legal system to extract information from online firms, and Sibal claimed that a new system would be required to tackle offending content.

While Sibal did not mention the establishment of local servers, the issue could be one that the government latches on to, having successfully seen RIM follow the request after more than a year of discussions.

Courts have previously threatened to block the website in India, although the country has since become the world’s second biggest market for Facebook, where it claims to have 50 million users. The company is continuing to push its service there, and it recently added local language support to its feature phone app.