Google to block prenatal gender testing sites in India
Mon 19 Sep 2016
In response to a growing female feticide problem in India, search engine giants Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are working with the Indian government to ban all advertising and searches related to prenatal gender testing in India.
India’s ministry of health has informed the country’s Supreme Court that all three companies have agreed to ban searches based on a 22-word configuration of search terms that would lead people to companies offering prenatal gender testing. This auto-block system will filter out all content, including websites and advertisements related to these services.
In 1994, the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act was passed in order to halt female feticide and normalize the declining sex ratio in India. However, the practice has apparently continued illegally, leading to a loss of an estimated 12 million females over the past thirty years, further skewing the male-female ratio in India. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) found that the child sex ratio, a measurement of female-male population ratios in children 0-6 years of age, declined by 15 points in rural India, and 4 points in urban locations from 2001-2011.
The Indian petitioner, Sabu George, a member of the National Inspection and Monitoring Committee, brought the case before the court by filing a public interest litigation. George alleged that advertisements for prenatal gender testing violate the 1994 act, and proposed that the advertisements, as well as internet searches for key terms, be blocked.
He asked the government to take action against Google, Microsoft and Yahoo for violations of the Act. George also provided the list of 22 key terms that could be blocked by search engines, which would prevent most people from reaching sites that provide prenatal gender testing. The list of keywords is open for revision and can be added to, as users find alternate means of accessing websites for these services.
Initially, the search engine companies argued that blocking keywords would affect research papers, and other legal search results, but the Indian Supreme Court responded with a statement of censure for ‘patently violating Indian Law.’ However, as of today, they have agreed to the auto-block of search terms and advertisements.