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No way to verify applicant's age for social media sites: Centre

social-media Updated: May 13, 2013 21:06 IST
Harish V Nair
Harish V Nair
Hindustan Times
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The Centre on Monday told the Delhi high court social networking sites do not permit children below 13 years to open accounts but no technology existed to verify the age of the applicant.

"Social networking sites do not permit children below 13 years of age to open accounts or access their websites. However, the technology does not offer any techniques to verify the age of a person logging into the internet and social media sites online," said an affidavit filed by the Centre.

The Centre said they generally verify the age and obtain permission of parents of the children below 13 years of age as per the laws of the country (US) where they are registered and their server are located.

The affidavit came in response to a query by the court on April 25 as to how Indian children below 18 years are allowed to open an account because as per Indian law, a contract cannot be signed by anyone aged less than 18 years.

Raising the issue through a petition, former BJP ideologue KN Govindacharya contended that such a permission granted to a minor was against Indian Majority Act, Indian Contract Act and Information and Technology Act.

But a bench of justices BD Ahmed and Vibhu Bakhru directed the centre to file a fresh affidavit by May 22 saying specific queries raised in its earlier order had not been answered.

The petition had also sought an order for recovery of taxes from the websites on their income from operations in India.

On this issue, the centre's affidavit said that M/s Google India Pvt Ltd and M/s Komli Media India Pvt Ltd, engaged by M/s Facebook Inc for its activity of advertising here, have been paying service tax but two US-based entities -- Facebook Inc and Google Inc -- are not supposed to pay tax as they have their business establishments outside India.

As per the affidavit, M/s Google India Pvt Ltd has paid service tax of more than Rs 32 crore and M/s Komli Media India Pvt Ltd has paid more than Rs 2 crore for the year 2012-2013.

Govindacharya, at present a patron of Rashtriya Swabhimaan Aandolan, has in a public interest litigation (PIL) alleged that due to non-verification of users, more than 8 crore of Facebook users across the world were found to be "fake", which the website admitted before the US authority, the plea said.

The Government of India is not taking any action against the foreign companies which have their Indian operations, the plea alleged.

The petitioner also sought directions to the Centre and the two websites to "ensure proper accounting compliances as per RBI guidelines".

"Facebook's gross revenue for previous year was $37 billion approximately but they are not paying due taxes to the Indian government," the petition claimed.