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Tussle between GoI and Social Networking Sites

The GoI, or in other word, Indian Government is in the process of pursuing a mechanism that will ensure provision of clean content on websites. The intension of the government was clarified by Mr. Kapil Sibal, Minister of Telecom that it is not against the freedom of speech as guaranteed by the constitution of India but rather to curtail the objectionable material from being posted on various sites especially on social networking media. Objectionable material is reflected in various forms like defamation, hate speech, privacy & security, impersonation, pornography and national security. The Government has invited the attention of software giants like Google, Microsoft and Facebook to come out with an action plan to avoid objectionable online content.

As per Google’s Transparency Report, Google had received requests to remove about 358 items. These requests were received in the first half of the year 2011 from both State and Central Government departments. A big chunk of these requests belong to objections raised by a single politician against Orkut profiles. Google has not heeded the request as the content was not either against the community standards set by them or against the local law. The demand raised by the Government was strongly criticized by internet user communities. A team of executives from Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft met the Minister and expressed their inability to control the content generated by millions users worldwide.

The country has brought into force enough laws to tackle the defamatory content. As per Intermediaries Rules 2011 launched last year, derogatory content should be removed by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) within 36 hours after the launch of complaint. Due to lack of administrative and legal backup, social networking sites are heeding into the complaints launched by users and they are more than prompt in removal of objectionable material. Ministry of IT is in the process of establishment of pre-publication filter which will definitely change the prospects of not only social networking sites but also users. On the other hand allowing content which will strongly affect others’ sentiments should be controlled. As per recent Supreme Court ruling this was necessitated even in the case of release of new movie.

As a matter of fact, there are many forms of ways through which derogatory messages might be conveyed. This is possible through newspapers, books, magazines and direct speech. Of all the cases, direct speech is the main contributor to instigate violence on large scale. Social media platforms are working by implementing their model code of conduct. Internet is a unique way of presentation of content. One can present his ideas and thoughts in different ways (text, image, audio and video) and through various ways (blog, forums, discussion groups, social networking sites at his own flexible time. Hundreds of thousands of web pages and profiles are created every day.

As Internet technologies offer unique ways of presentation of content, the mechanism to curb harmful content should be laid in such a way that it will not restrict individual’s freedom. Individuals should play their role as responsible citizens to promote harmony in the country. Government should look into the issue on a broad perspective and should safeguard the interests of both public and social networking platforms.

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