Class-action lawsuit alleges the social media giant scanned users’ private messages and shared data with advertisers.
India tops the list of countries censoring content on Facebook, new data by the social media giant has shown, as the number of restrictions tripled to 15,155 pieces of content in the first six months of this year.
At 4,496, Turkey is at a distant second place on the list, according to the Government Requests Report released by Facebook on Wednesday.
There is no doubt that undesirable content on social media, including Facebook, is being increasingly used to propagate cyberterrorism and radicalist content
“We restricted access in India to content reported primarily by law enforcement agencies and the India Computer Emergency Response Team within the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology because it was anti-religious and hate speech that could cause unrest and disharmony within India,” Facebook said in its report.
Indian authorities also sent in 5,115 requests to Facebook for user data, the second highest after the US. The social networking site said it had complied with 45.32 percent of the requests made from India.
Globally, censorship on Facebook in the first six months of 2015 went up by 234 percent compared with the same period last year.
Pavan Duggal, a cybersecurity expert, told Al Jazeera that the increasing number of restrictions in India should be seen in relation to the sharp growth of Facebook users in the country – at 125 million, India is the social media giant’s second biggest market.
“There is no doubt that undesirable content on social media, including Facebook, is being increasingly used to propagate cyberterrorism and radicalist content,” he said, adding that “it is having a prejudicial effect on sovereignty and integrity of the country”.
Privacy versus national security
Duggal defended the government’s stand, saying that “an increasing number of crimes are being sourced” to Facebook.
“To safeguard its national security, a country is well within its right to request for taking down of content,” he told Al Jazeera over the phone from New Delhi.
Facebook shared 80 percent of the user data that US authorities requested.
“In the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations, increasingly more and more countries are giving importance to national security over privacy,” Duggal told Al Jazeera.
“Privacy is a secondary concern for governments across the world.”
The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been accused by critics of curbing internet freedom.
In January, the government blocked access to 32 websites, including popular video platforms, such as Vimeo and Dailymotion, while in July it banned access to 857 pornographic websites.
The government rescinded its decision after a public outcry.
“According to India’s IT Act 2000, later amended in 2008, the state has absolute power to intercept, monitor, encrypt and block online content,” Duggal said.
“The increasing power of the state has been backed by its own laws. Nobody has the answer about the ‘golden balance’ between national security and privacy versus online freedom.”