Google Inc and Facebook Inc were today asked by the Delhi High Court to spell out their mechanism to deal with complaints including misuse of social networking sites by children below 13 years of age.
"You inform us about the procedure you follow to deal with such complaints," a bench of Acting Chief Justice B D Ahmed and Justice Vibhu Bakhru said while hearing a PIL alleging that the websites have no mechanism for protection of children from online abuse.
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"Let us see how do they deal with the complaints," the bench said and asked the petitioner to hand over at least one complaint with regard to minors having accounts on such websites and posted the matter for hearing on August 23.
Virag Gupta, the counsel former BJP leader K N Govindacharya who has filed the PIL, was asked by the court to give a complaint to the Ministry of Information Technology who will then forward it to Facebook and Google Inc, which also runs social networking site Orkut.
The bench also expressed its displeasure after the social networking sites said they cannot display on its home page a statement that "children below 13 are not allowed to open an account on these social networking sites."
"We are in India. Just because India is not tough with you, you are not doing it. Where the governments are tough, you comply with the instructions. You people are not showing any interest to do so, which will save the children," it said.
The observations came after the counsel for Google Inc argued that the website is being governed by American law Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and it cannot display the statement in the home page as the Indian IT law and the rules also did not mandate it to do so.
"In any case, we (Google Inc) do not wish to encourage a child below 13 years to lie about their age just to gain access to Orkut," senior advocate Arvind Nigam, appearing for Google, said.
The public interest litigation contended that children below 18 years are getting into an agreement with the social networking sites to open accounts which is against the Indian Majority Act, the Indian Contract Act and also the Information and Technology Act.
The petition has also sought recovery of taxes from the websites on their income from operations in India.
Earlier, Facebook Inc and Google Inc had submitted affidavits in the court detailing the protective measures that are available on their sites to ensure their product is not misused.
They said their statement of rights and other terms and conditions prohibits children below 13 years of age from registering an account and creating more than one personal account.
They said they also have strict policies in place to delete any objectionable or misleading content they come across on their sites.
They, however, told the court that they cannot physically verify the age of the users and it is the responsibility of the legal guardians.
The petitioner had said due to non-verification of users, more than eight crore of Facebook users across the world were found to be "fake", which the website admitted before a US authority.
He had said government was not taking any action against the foreign companies which have their Indian operations.