Indian Union Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal has asked the various web companies and Social networking websites to prescreen user content from India before putting it up online. This has come in the wake of some social networking sites carrying defamatory content about Congress president Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The Minister held a meeting with top officials of the Indian units of Yahoo, Facebook, Google and Microsoft and asked them to devise a mechanism where their staff would screen and filter and check for defamatory content before uploading any content online. Indian IT Minister Kapil Sibal showed them a website that was posted in the name of a religious site but which turned out to be a pornographic site. Kapil Sibal also said that for security reasons the Indian Intelligent Agencies would also want to monitor these websites and Social Networks.
This move made by the Government of India has received widespread criticism in various social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter. India is one of the only countries to have civil and criminal defamation in its law. Any content that is posted online on these social networking sites like Facebook, Google plus, Twitter would qualify as the users comment and screening them would mean violating the individual’s right to free speech, which is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution.
This move by the Government of India is it latest attempt in monitoring and controlling of electronic based information. It was just last year that the Government had tried to gain access to Blackberry user’s messages and had also threatened the manufacturer, Research in Motion, to shut off their service in India. Government of India now plans to set up its own unit which would monitor all the information being posted in the various websites and social networks. One such unit is already in place in Mumbai, which monitors social networking sites like Facebook, Google plus etc. The website company representatives have expressed their helplessness on screening of the content that goes online due to the large amount of content that is being uploaded. India is said to have more than 10 crore internet users and monitoring them would b very difficult. Indian representatives for social networks like Facebook, Google, Twitter etc have expresses their support in cooperating with Indian Government in matters of national security and law and order.
Report by Priyanka S Menon