After Facebook and Google respond, IT minister backtracks on pre-screening content

After Facebook and Google respond, IT minister backtracks on pre-screening content

Summary: To insanity and back.

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In case you did not know, India's Communications and IT minister has been having a lot of serious fun. He wants user generated content shared on networks like Twitter, Google and Facebook to be pre-screened for potentially offensive material.

If content posted is found to be sensitive to the communal moral police, it shouldn't be made public. As the reports and Kapil Sibal's comments explained, the government doesn't want to curb freedom of speech but they want the tech companies to pre-screen and censor information. The government will work with the tech companies to develop a framework. This is the government categorically not curbing freedom of speech. After yesterday's charged press conference, Google and Facebook have issued statements on their respective stands.

A representative of Facebook talking about the issue told CNN-IBN, "We want Facebook to be a place where people can discuss things freely, while respecting the rights and feelings of others, which is why we have already have policies and on-site features in place that enable people to report abusive content. We will remove any content that violates our terms, which are designed to keep material that is hateful, threatening, incites violence or contains nudity off the service. We recognize the government's interest in minimizing the amount of abusive content that is available online and will continue to engage with the Indian authorities as they debate this important issue". Facebook has been on the lookout for a lobbyist in the Delhi to help the company make good relations with the government.

Google on the other hand has been a rather more blunt on the issue. As a company, Google has had its share of government vs censorship challenges in China. It came to the point of Google willing to stop doing business in the country; calmer minds prevailed though. In a statement issued by company spokesperson Google categorically said they will not censor content simply because it is controversial. The representative said, "We work really hard to make sure that people have as much access to information as possible, while also following the law. This means that when content is illegal, we abide by local law and take it down. And even where content is legal but breaks or violates our own terms and conditions we take that down too, once we have been notified about it, but when content is legal and does not violate our policies, we will not remove it just because it is controversial, as we believe that people's differing views, so long as they are legal, should be respected and protected."

The government's idea to pre-screen content is hilarious to say the least. Devising any framework that restricts the citizens of a nation to speak freely goes against the fundamental right in a democracy. If one believes that something said by someone is in bad taste, there is the law. The IT minister seems to have had an epiphany. In an interview to NDTV he has backtracked on his plan to have the companies pre-screen the content. According to him no sane person can ask for something that's not on the web yet to be screened.

Kapil Sibal's interview with NDTV's Barkha Dutt

Topics: Social Enterprise, Collaboration, Google, Government, Government US

Manan Kakkar

About Manan Kakkar

Telecommunication engineer with a keen interest in end-user technology and a News junkie, I share my thoughts while preparing for my Master's in Information Management.

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3 comments
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  • RE: After Facebook and Google respond, IT minister backtracks on pre-screening content

    Of course this minister doesn't understand how the internet works. Shame on however has put him on this chair if he doesn't have basic necessary knowledge to understand the stuff he needs to deal with.
    cameigons
  • RE: After Facebook and Google respond, IT minister backtracks on pre-screening content

    "...no sane person can ask for something that???s not on the web yet to be screened."

    No duh, mom. (Said with dripping teen sarcasm.)
    Bill4
  • RE: After Facebook and Google respond, IT minister backtracks on pre-screening content

    Hi Manan Kakkar,

    Having read your article and then following your link to Kapil Sibal interview by Barka Dutt, I think that you may want to review the accuracy of your piece. Mr. Sibal views were very rational and sensible.

    In fact, living in the UK, I have seen the very same debate about the Internet Freedom taking place in various countries in the west. The ongoing Leverson enquiry in the UK following the issues exposed re the journalistic practices of News International papers, covers very similar practices across a range of media. As does high profile issues exposed by the recent Super Injunction court cases. I totally agreed with Mr. Sibal point that there needs to be global consensus about regulation of the media in general. We as a global society need to ensure on the one hand the freedom of the media to expose wrongdoing and allow the truth to shine through, but we also need to ensure that this is not a free pass for offensive, slanderous and hurtful material to published.

    Another inconvenient truth is that there is a financial cost associated with ensuring that offensive material is monitored for and removed from online sites. I suspect that this is the reason that the likes of Google and Facebook are careful about making commitments in this area.

    Regards

    DS
    dilipsharan