Indian Government attempts to censor the Web

India is reportedly trying to censor the Web. According to some reports, the Indian Government has asked operators of social networks, including Facebook, Google and Yahoo to screen user content arising from the country and prevent any 'disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory' content from getting published.

The reports further say that, the Indian Telecoms minister Mr. Kapil Sibal met executives at those companies on Monday to ask them to implement a monitoring mechanism. The Minister even backed his argument by showing representatives from top social networking sites and service providers a Webpage (Facebook pages) attacking a Congress leader. The minister said he did not want to come to the press on this issue but was forced to do so after the New York Times reported that the government was trying to censor these sites, which was not true; Adding further that, if the sites and service providers don’t do something against such indecent material; then the Government has to take some steps.

The representatives of the social networks reportedly informed the Government that the proposed censor was impossible due to the sheer volume of data being uploaded by users in India. Although they verbally (the representatives) agreed to many of the clauses.

No solution was reached in the said meeting.

The Response:

Sibal's move has come under attack on social networks, including Twitter. In Twitter Kapil Sibal is trending, taking the top two slots, Kapil Sibal and #IdiotKapilSibal, in the now trending chart.

History of Web censorship attempts by India:

A Google report has claimed that the Indian government had made over 50 requests to take down data in 2011. India is also of the view of blocking .xxx domains, for pornography websites, which started selling this week.

Why Mr. Sibal's demand is unnecessary:

For one simple reason: the amount of content, tweets, videos, photos, blog posts and all other forms of user-generated content that is published online every single day is Huge.

To get you an idea; Users world wide upload as much as 24 hours of video to Youtube website every minute. Thus in a day Youtube users are uploading 1440 day duration of videos (if a person sits down to watch the vidoes uploaded on Youtube in a single day, then it will take him/her 1440 days or about 4 years to watch them all).

Take another example. the number of tweets (140 character Twitter updates), another user generated content which irks powerful people many a times, handled by Twitter in the month of April 2011 was a whopping 10.76 billion or 1076 crore (or 35.8 crore tweets a day).

Going by the above data, the honorable minister's demand of manual monitoring of the web content is unrealistic.

Mr. Sibal is unnecessarily raising the issue of web censorship; especially when the sheer amount of data, a factor which makes monitoring difficult for web companies and service providers; helps his demand too. As no matter how much data is created on web, a bear share of it goes unnoticed. Unless someone pointedly tries to bring any content to public notice; most content on web, which mostly contains distasteful, inferior in quality stuff, goes unnoticed.

Another reason, why Mr. Sibal should not make a hue and cry about the issue, is that: Intrinsically most users on web assume that, in the absence of effective censorship; countless people will be using web to malign others (especially rich, influential and powerful) for no personal enmity; with fabricated and very biased stories. In simple, if a Web user sees some objectionable content about a Congress leader; then he instinctively assumes that the content is created by a BJP sympathizer for the consumption of BJP minded people. --------

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