Reporters Without Borders is calling on Google Inc. to defy a Bombay court order that instructed its Indian subsidiary to reveal the name of a blogger who used its Blogger Web platform to criticize an Indian construction equipment company.
On Aug. 15, the Bombay High Court instructed Google India Private Ltd. to hand over the identity of a blogger who used the pseudonym “Toxic Writer” to post comments about Gremach Infrastructure Equipments & Projects Ltd., which filed a defamation suit against Mountain View, Calif.-based Google in February.
Google has removed the blog but has so far refused to name the writer.
A letter last week addressed to Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt and co-founder Sergey Brin urged the company not to comply with local law and appeal the court’s decision. Robert Menard, secretary-general for Reporters Without Borders, cited the case of Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist who in 2005 was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a subsidiary of Yahoo Inc. handed over his personal information to Chinese authorities.
“You must be aware of the ensuing public relations disaster for Yahoo and the apology that your counterpart and rival, [Yahoo CEO] Jerry Yang, had to give to the U.S. Congress after it held him responsible for his client’s imprisonment,” Mr. Menard wrote. “Seize the opportunity you are being given to demonstrate transparency by defying the Indian court’s request in the name of international standards that protect free expression.”
Asked to elaborate on the link between Shi Tao the Indian case, a representative for RWB noted that India is a democracy and the cases are different. Still, Clothilde Le Coz pointed out, “The Shi Tao case doesn’t only rely on activism but raises the question of the collaboration of a firm with local laws, which can lead someone to prison for what this person expressed.”
The organization wrote to Google to “raise awareness on this big issue,” “not to condemn India.” Ms. Le Coz said an appeal from the search giant would show that it is possible to challenge the authorities of a country. Because it is Google and “not some unknown Indian” Internet service provider, “it might just work this time.”
A press inquiry to Google wasn’t immediately returned.