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Facebook Inc (FB), Google Inc (GOOG): U.S. Defends 1st Amendment vs. India

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and several other U.S.-based websites have been facing some potential court appearances in India, after a court there issues summons to have the sites answer for charges of “promoting class enmity” and “undermining national integrity” in the country.  It is not a simple matter of mailing the summons across the ocean and have them delivered by courier straight to Larry Page’s or Mark Zuckerberg’s front door.

Image below: Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)

The process has to go through the U.S. Department of Justice thanks to the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty signed by the two countries, and one particular clause in that treaty is being used by the Justice Department to deny India’s request to submit the summons on U.S. constitutional grounds, protecting Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG), for now. As we had reported several months ago, India authorities were charging these 11 U.S.-based websites for showing pornographic material and selling that content as well as other “conspiratorial” content – especially to young people, the initial complaint read.

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB)The Justice Department sent a letter in late March saying it would not process the summons against the 11 websites – which include Orkut, Blogspot, Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) – because of First Amendment protections. The letter read, “(A)s previously discussed, the first amendment to the US Constitution provides for broad freedom of expression and as a result prohibits criminal prosecution of speech except in narrowly defined circumstances. Upon review of the information available to us, the request implicates free speech principles that are protected by our Constitution and that are considered essential interests.”

However, that doesn’t end it. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB), Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) and the others still may face the charges, because the letter continued, “If there are other facts pertaining to this matter that have not been included in this request, e.g. Information indicating an endangerment or threat to Indian lives, we will gladly consider them.”

Do you think the U.S. Department of Justice did the right thing by rejecting the service of summons to these websites? Should Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) or Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) be forced to answer for these charges? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.