Search engines get 36 hours to delete sex test ads

Published: 17th November 2016 01:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th November 2016 06:46 AM   |  A+A-


A woman holds her smart phone which displays the Google home page, in this picture illustration taken February 24, 2016 | Reuters

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to appoint a nodal agency to monitor Google, Yahoo and Microsoft websites, and asked them to “delete” within 36 hours advertisements pertaining to pre-natal sex determination in India.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy said, “We direct the Union of India to constitute a nodal agency which would give advertisements on TV, radio and in newspapers....that if anybody comes across anything which identify a girl or a boy (at pre-natal stage), it should be brought to the notice of the nodal agency. Once it is brought to the notice of the nodal agency, it shall inform the search engines and they, after receiving the information, are obliged to delete it within 36 hours and inform the nodal agency.”

Advocate Sanjay Parikh, representing petitioner Sabu Mathew George who sought the court’s intervention in light of the decreasing sex ratio, claimed that the advertisements remained on the websites despite the apex court’s orders.

The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 was enacted to stop female foeticides and curb India’s declining sex ratio. It had also banned pre-natal sex determination.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who was representing Google India, along with the counsel for other search engines said they had complied with the earlier order passed by the apex court and taken steps to block such advertisements. However, they said the matter requires further debate.

The apex court on September 19 said that these search engines were under “obligation” to check such advertisements and had directed them to develop in-house methods to prohibit such content.  

The direction came after Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar said that the companies had agreed to follow the laws prescribed by the court and would not allow advertisements or “publish any content” regarding this issue.
He also told the court that all the three companies had developed a technique called “auto block” which prohibits advertisements on sex determination the moment any “advertisement or search” is introduced in the online system. He had also submitted a list of 43 “proposed” key words which, when commands are given would “auto block” the site with a warning.

The court has adjourned the hearing of the matter until February 17, next year.

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