A recent Guardian investigation has revealed that Microsoft and Yahoo search engines have taken measures to prevent their users in the Indian sub-continent from accessing pornographic material via Bing and Yahoo Search respectively.
The newspaper found that the companies have beefed up their search filters in order to comply with a recent amendment in India’s Information Technology Act which has banned the publication of pornographic material.
The law is based on a 150 year old penal code which defines obscenity as "any content that is lascivious and that will appeal to prurient interest or the effect of which is to tend to deprave or corrupt the minds of those who are likely to see, read or hear the same".
The new amendment enables the government to take action against search engines, internet service providers and even internet cafes if they don’t manage to "exercise due diligence and disable access to any content which contravenes the act" and failure to do so may result in a 3 year jail term and a fine of 500,000 Rupees or £6,690.
Yahoo and its photo sharing service Flickr have made changes to their websites so people logging in from India are not able to turn of the safe search option.
However, Bing, upon receiving a query that comes under "adult" category, simply displays a message that states "Your country or region requires a strict Bing SafeSearch setting, which filters out results that might return adult content".
For a country known for the Kamasutra and whose popular films often show sari-wrapped actresses showing so much skin that it would make the prude blush, this ain't what we'd expect. It is a shame though that the lawmakers have had to base their decisions on a 150 year piece of legalese.