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Google, Yahoo and Microsoft sued by Indian Supreme Court for displaying gender selection advertisements


The age old controversy remains. Who is responsible for showing banned advertisements? Is it the Ad platform or the person who is advertising on that platform? In my book it is the latter, however Indian Supreme court thinks otherwise. They have slapped notices to Google, Yahoo and Microsoft for displaying gender selection advertisements targeted at Indian users.

The advertisement of products and techniques to aid in the selection of an unborn child’s sex is an offense under India’s “The Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act”.

According to the petitioner, Sabu Matthew George, search engines, video sharing sites and social networking sites, including Google’s Orkut and YouTube have been displaying these objectionable ads. [CW]

The law books hold network service providers liable unless they can prove that the offense or contravention was committed without their knowledge or that they had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offense or contravention.

Now the question is, can Google scrape through each and every advertisement to find out whether it is displaying objectionable content? Absolutely not !

Although, the advertiser has to accept and abide by the terms and conditions during signing up with these ad platforms, it is extremely difficult for giant like Google to find out who is breaching the terms.

This is an interesting debate and I would love to hear what readers feel about it.

  1. Neeraj says

    Being myself a employed in a network, managing the publisher business, It remains the onus of the network/service provider to run quality ads, even though it is self serving.

  2. Prabhu says

    I think this is a bold move from our court. You cannot display any arbitrary ad in a TV just because you are getting money, isn’t it? Same way, even these portals should have stricter ways to check the ads (automated/manual/outsourced whatever).Kudos to supreme court.

  3. shrimpy says

    Is this part of a larger  Indian legal bias against the web? Both this case and the ruckus in 2004 over the DPS mobile phone video on have echoes of shooting the messenger.

  4. xyz says

    Well I have worked for a few months in Yahoo before and I would like to point out that due care is taken to see to it that spam and objectionable advertisements are not displayed on the websites.. There is an exhaustive checklist (obviously automated) to ensure the same and all online ads are subjected to it before being displayed.. So in a way by not detecting the malicious ad, there seems to some loop hole in the system… If this has happened due to negligence by Yahoo or Google or Microsoft, in my opinion they should be liable.. Otherwise they must be let off with due warning to improve their system..

    Coming to the broader question, I believe that nowadays millions of websites, blogs, portals are popping up with no regard to authencity of content.. There is increase in spam, porn ads, undesirable pop ups and some are even accused of obtaining confidential data for henious crimes.. I believe that the cyber laws have to become stricter and regulations have to be strengthened to ensure that all websites (including personal ones) follow the basic diligence and ensure minimum quality standards..

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