M A I N   N E W S

Sibal takes on networking sites over foul content
Says Google, Facebook, Twitter must self-regulate
Girja Shankar Kaura/TNS

New Delhi, December 6
Concerned over the rise in objectionable content on social networking sites, the government today said it would take steps to screen and remove such contents. It asked Internet firms like Google and Facebook to adhere to government guidelines.

A day after representatives from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft had a meeting with Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal and declined to remove offensive content, the minister stressed that these firms would have to evolve a mechanism and come back with a solution. However, he added that the government did not believe in either directly or indirectly interfering in the freedom of the Press.

The minister was addressing mediapersons after reports in an international newspaper said that the government was trying to censor such sites, which Sibal said was not true.

“The government is not for online censorship, but wants Internet service providers to pre-screen user content in order to remove disparaging and defamatory matter online, he said.

Sibal said some of the content available on these sites could hurt religious sentiments of various communities in India. “Religious sentiments of many communities are being hurt because of the content on these sites,” he said.

“I suggested that these platforms should evolve a mechanism on their own to ensure that such content is removed as soon as they get to know of it... I have told them that this cannot go on,” Sibal said.

The minister said he had first met officials of Facebook, Twitter and Orkut on September 5 to discuss concerns of the government over objectionable pictures being posted on their sites by users.

According to reports, the pictures, which were shown off the record, depicted Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in bad light. Some others were insulting to various religions.

“Nobody minds satirical image of any public personality but if you show a certain form of me... this is not acceptable. Even individuals should be protected,” said Sibal.

Facebook has said that it recognises government’s interest in removing abusive content and will engage with Indian authorities on the issue.

An official statement from the company further added, “We want Facebook to be a place where people can discuss freely while respecting the rights and feelings of others. We already have policies and on-site features in place and will remove any content that violates our terms.”

“They will have to give us data, then action will be taken. We will ask them to give information. Allow us time to deal with it. But one things is sure, we will not allow this kind of content,” Sibal said.


Some pictures on social networking sites depicted Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in bad light. Some others were insulting to various religions


The government’s proposal has unleashed a storm of criticism from Internet users, who are complaining of censorship in the world’s largest democracy. Bloggers and Twitter users said a pre-filtering system would limit free expression and was impossible to implement.





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