Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on August 19, 2008
The big three American Internet companies are facing what could be trouble in India, trouble that could also spill over into problems back home. India has a serious gender-imbalance problem; many Indians prefer boys to girls and so opt for abortion if they discover their fetus is female. As AFP reports here, Indian activists are taking Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to court, alleging the three accept ads for products enabling expectant parents to learn their fetus’ gender. “These companies are making a lot of money by doing highly targeted and selective advertising of these products,” said Sabu George, an activist leading the campaign, according to AFP. “Our petition seeks to block these advertisements.”
Google won’t comment about the merits of the case itself, saying it is still waiting to receive the court’s request. “We have not yet received the petition from the Supreme Court,” says Google spokesman John Pinette in an email reply to a query from BusinessWeek, “but we take local laws seriously and will review the petition carefully.” The search giant’s advertising program, he adds, “is managed by a set of policies which we developed based on several factors, including local legal requirements and user experience.” A Google spokesman in India adds: “In India, we do not allow ads for the promotion of prenatal gender determination or pre-conception sex selection.”*
Yahoo and Microsoft offices in India have not replied to requests for comment from BusinessWeek.
The companies have good reason to be careful about this one. If there’s an issue that can get the pro-life movement in the U.S. to focus on Asia, it’s the practice of sex-selection in India and other parts of the region. Steven Mosher, president of anti-abortion group the Population Research Institute, last month put up a video on YouTube calling on American feminists to speak out against sex selection in Asia. “In China, India, and other Asian countries, there is a strong preference for boys,” LifeNews.com quoted him saying. “This combination of a preference for boys and modern technology—the ultrasound machine—has proven deadly for millions upon millions of baby girls.”
* Last sentence added Aug. 20.
BusinessWeek’s team of Asia reporters brings you the latest insights on business, politics, technology and culture from some of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies. Eye on Asia’s bloggers include Asia regional editor Bruce Einhorn, Tokyo reporter Ian Rowley, Korea bureau chief Moon Ihlwan, Asia News Editor and China Bureau Chief. Dexter Roberts, and Hong Kong-based Asia correspondent Frederik Balfour.