Following a Supreme Court of India order, major search engines like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo will now block advertisements related to prenatal sex determination services.
“In our considered opinion, they (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft) are under obligation to see that the ‘doctrine of auto block’ is applied within a reasonable period of time. It is difficult to accept the submission that once it is brought to their notice, they will do the needful. It need not be over emphasised that it has to be an in-house procedure/method to be introduced by the companies, and we do direct,” a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and C Nagappan said.
Government lawyers then told the court that the Indian units of these search engines had agreed to follow the law on sex determination and would not allow any advertisements or content on the issue on their search engines.
According to Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, all three companies have enabled a technique called ‘auto block’ to stop such ads.
If any person tries to avail the corridors of these companies, this device shall be adopted so that no one can enter/see the said advertisement or message or anything that is prohibited under the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, specifically under Section 22 of the said Act,” the bench said.
The companies were also directed to use several words, including “sex-determination,’’ that are harder to include in searches.
“Keeping in mind the sensitivities attached to this issue and to ensure that technology is used in right earnest to curb this retrograde practice, we have decided to disable certain terms from appearing as autocomplete predictions as well as display a warning message on relevant searches to inform users of the unlawful nature of this subject,” a Google spokesperson said in a statement.
The Court’s order was prompted by public interest litigation by petitioner Dr Sabu Mathew George, who said that the ads violated India’s 1994 Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act to stop female foeticide. Selective abortion of females is a widespread and urgent problem in the country, despite laws prohibiting the determination of the sex of a foetus.
According to the 2011 census, the sex ratio for children was 919 girls for every 1,000 boys, lower than the normal ratio in the rest of the world.