M A I N   N E W S

Sibal initiates dialogue with networking sites
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 15
Facing flak for suggesting policing of the internet, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal today sought to douse the fire by initiating a dialogue with leading social networking firms Google, Facebook and Twitter.

Sibal had said last week that the government would take steps to screen and remove “derogatory” contents from these sites following posting of such comments against Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Minister on Thusday appeared reconciliatory as he sought suggestions from the representatives of these sites on effective usage of these platforms.

The minister’s comment came a day after representatives from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft met him and declined to remove “offensive” content.

The minister last week stressed these firms would have to evolve a mechanism and come back with a solution. At the same time, he made it clear the government did not believe in either directly or indirectly interfering in the freedom of expression.

The minister’s comment led to a controversy over policing the internet. On Thursday, he came out with a statement, saying “the government called for an open dialogue with the social media firms and ask for opinions on how social media and e-governance can empower citizens of this country.”

Striking the reconciliatory mode the minister added, “This discussion and this dialogue are about how the social media can empower government, because under the normal processes of government, there is always a limited dialogue with representatives of society because the means are limited”.

In an apparent effort to bring around the defiant social network sites, the minister said, “But with the social media platforms that are now in place, there is a huge expansion of the space within which the dialogue can take place and therefore, that expansion of space should be used by us as a bridge that will help government to be empowered through the citizens”.

The minister was of the view that the reach of the social media was enormous, but those who use the social media were limited. “So it should not be that the government represents the point of view of a certain section of society,” he said.

Sibal said he asked the social network representatives, “How does the social media use its own platform to ensure that the voice of the marginalised is heard by government, which otherwise sometimes is not heard?”

He added that government wanted a constructive dialogue with these sites which “would help them to empower us when we move forward in our decision-making”.

Sibal sought to ignore the question when asked whether discussion took place with regard to monitoring of defamatory and derogatory content on the internet.





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