India has asked social network sites, like Facebook and Google, to prescreen user content from India and remove disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory content before it goes online.
What’s more, it wants these companies to use human beings, and not technology, to screen the content, sources said.
In a meeting with top officials of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook on Monday, union communications and IT minister Kapil Sibal said they should remove all disparaging and defamatory content before uploading it into websites.
He cited an example of a religious place that turned out to be a pornographic site, and told them such content played with religious sentiments, the sources said.
The company representatives are believed to have told Sibal his demand was impossible, given the volume of user-generated content from India, and that they cannot be responsible for determining what is and is not defamatory or disparaging. They also said the demand could be implemented only if there was a clear law.
Six weeks ago, the sources said, Sibal had called legal representatives of top internet service providers and social network sites to his office and showed them a Facebook page that maligned Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. “This is unacceptable,” he had said, asking those present to find a way to monitor what is posted on their sites.
Facebook has more than 25 million users in India and Google about 100 million. According to a Google transparency report, India made nearly 70 requests to remove content between January and June of this year.
This isn't the government's first attempt to control electronic information. In April, it issued rules demanding internet service providers delete information posted on websites that officials or private citizens deemed disparaging. Last year, it threatened to shut down
Blackberry services in India if its manufacturer, Research In Motion, did not allow government officials greater access to users' messages.
(With NYT inputs)