Indian govt. piggy backs on religion to censor the web

Communications and IT minister Kapil Sibal is in discussion with tech companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Twitter to pre-screen user generated content so that community-sentiments are not hurt. Yeah, right!

The past 24 hours have had Twitter and Facebook users in India up in arms. The New York Times broke a story about the Communications and IT minister's plans to censor the web triggered the outcry. India is a democratic country with several religions and faiths, what might seem humorous to someone can be really offensive to another; emotions run high. Incidents of communities taking to the streets and vandalizing public property are not shocking. It is such incidents that India's Communication and IT minister, Kapil Sibal cited as reasons as to why he wants the web screened.

As someone who has been closely watching the developments in the telecom sector, Kapil Sibal was doing quite a commendable job till today. Making absurd statements like the government not wanting to censor the web and is against censorship while following this with plans of devising policies and a framework to screen content that is being uploaded to social media websites, is disappointing. During the press conference that Kapil Sibal admitted was a reaction to the New York Times story, his expressions and responses were vague. It was clear that he was not prepared for the backlash on the web and the questions that awaited him.

Kapil Sibal says satirical representation of public figures while acceptable should not disturb the communal harmony. The collective intelligence of Twitter has had a field day with  Kapil Sibal's statements and is giving Kapil Sibal exactly what the government plans to curb. According to Kapil Sibal, his conversation with representatives from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook are preliminary. The government has presented a draft framework on what the government doesn't want on the Internet. The Indian National Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi is the heading the government and there have been several caricatures of her on the Internet. Choosing religion as the reason is, well, a smart political stand; something those following Indian politics expect. Kapil Sibal wants social media platforms to pre-screen the content that is being uploaded and censor content that the politicians believe shouldn't be on the Internet.

In India, politics trumps privacy. Kapil Sibal says the representatives from the technology companies were receptive to the suggestions, perhaps they weren't sure whether Sibal was cracking a straight faced joke. There is content that shouldn't be on the Internet, like child porn. Companies like Facebook and Google are taking stringent steps against such content. Some interesting comments on Twitter on Kapil Sibal's statements:

Utter nonsense is measured in deSibals? (via @nikhilnarayanan)

Dear Mr Sibal, it is YOU who are accountable to the people; we are NOT accountable to you. Now repeat 100 times. (via @SachinKalbag)

So, $35 tablets will come with censorship filters inbuilt? (via @mehulved)

No Kapil Sibal. You can't be the Cabinet Minister for Offence. There's no such thing. (via @rameshsrivats)

Pope Sibal I, in 1440-"What? Gutenberg invented a printing press? I want the Church to read every letter of every page before it's printed" (via @krishashok)

Kapil Sibal is an idiot. RT while this is still legal. (via @sidin)

Breaking News : Indian govt launches a new firewall called S.I.B.A.L - Social Internet Blocking ALgorithm (via @schmmuck)

Kapil Sibal's comments make 4 of the 10 Twitter trends in India:

An image doing rounds on Facebook, blogs and Twitter:

Video of Kapil Sibal's clarification press conference.

The New York Times story.