[At-Large] Fwd: [governance] Sibal demands pre-censorship of user-uploaded content

Pranesh Prakash pranesh at cis-india.org
Tue Dec 6 08:28:05 UTC 2011

This would be of interest to people on this list as well.  The Minister
(who is an experienced Supreme Court lawyer) just held a press
conference an hour ago to justify the below report, saying he is all for
freedom of speech, but that there is content online that no one in a
democracy won't find objectionable.  This is content that he cannot
share with the general populace because it is so objectionable that it
should not be shown on TV or published in print.

- Pranesh

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [governance] Sibal demands pre-censorship of user-uploaded content
Date: Tue, 06 Dec 2011 10:32:28 +0530
From: Pranesh Prakash <pranesh at cis-india.org>
Reply-To: governance at lists.cpsr.org,Pranesh Prakash <pranesh at cis-india.org>
Organization: Centre for Internet and Society
To: Internet Governance Caucus List <governance at lists.cpsr.org>,
india-gii at lists.cpsr.org

In a moment of divine inspiration, the Indian Minister for
Communications and Information Technology asks Facebook, Google, Yahoo
and Microsoft to pre-censor user-uploaded content.

// Pranesh

From the New York Times, which broke the story:


DECEMBER 5, 2011, 6:33 AM
India Asks Google, Facebook to Screen User Content


The Indian government has asked Internet companies and social media
sites like Facebook to prescreen user content from India and to remove
disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory content before it goes online,
three executives in the information technology industry say.

Top officials from the Indian units of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and
Facebook are meeting with Kapil Sibal, India’s acting telecommunications
minister, on Monday afternoon to discuss the issue, say two executives
of Internet companies. The executives asked not to be identified because
they are not authorized to speak to the media on the issue.

Mr. Sibal’s office confirmed that he would meet with Internet service
providers Monday but did not provide more information about the content
of the meeting.

About six weeks ago, Mr. Sibal called legal representatives from the top
Internet service providers and Facebook into his New Delhi office, said
one of the executives who was briefed on the meeting.

At the meeting, Mr. Sibal showed attendees a Facebook page that maligned
the Congress Party’s president, Sonia Gandhi.  “This is unacceptable,”
he told attendees, the executive said, and he asked them to find a way
to monitor what is posted on their sites.

In the second meeting with the same executives in late November, Mr.
Sibal told them that he expected them to use human beings to screen
content, not technology, the executive said.

The three executives said Mr. Sibal has told these companies that he
expects them to set up a proactive prescreening system, with staffers
looking for objectionable content and deleting it before it is posted.

The executives said representatives from these companies will tell Mr.
Sibal at the meeting on Monday that his demand is impossible, given the
volume of user-generated content coming from India, and that they cannot
be responsible for determining what is and isn’t defamatory or disparaging.

“If there’s a law and there’s a court order, we can follow up on it,”
said an executive from one of the companies attending the meeting. But
these companies can’t be in the business of deciding what is and isn’t
legal to post, he said.

Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft did not respond immediately to calls for
comment, and a Google spokeswoman said the company had no comment on the
issue. Facebook said earlier this year it has more than 25 million users
in India. Google has over 100 million Internet users in India.

The demand is the Indian government’s latest attempt to monitor and
control electronic information. In April, the ministry issued rules
demanding Internet service providers delete information posted on Web
sites that officials or private citizens deemed disparaging or
harassing. Last year, the government battled with Blackberry’s
manufacturer, Research In Motion, threatening to shut the company’s
service off in India if it did not allow government officials greater
access to users’ messages.

The Indian government also plans to set up its own unit to monitor
information posted on Web sites and social media sites, executives said,
which will report to Gulshan Rai, the director general of India’s
cyber-security monitor.

A man who answered the phone in Mr. Rai’s office said he did not talk to
the press and hung up when a reporter asked for a press contact.

Some Indian cities like Mumbai have already set up special units to
monitor Internet sites like Facebook and Orkut, the social networking
site operated by Google, for content considered disparaging or obscene.
India has made nearly 70 requests to Google to remove content between
January and June of this year, one of the highest request rates of any
country though less than the United States’s 92 and Brazil’s 224,
according to Google’s transparency report.

Vikas Bajaj contributed reporting from Mumbai.

Pranesh Prakash
Programme Manager
Centre for Internet and Society
W: http://cis-india.org | T: +91 80 40926283

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