Union communications and IT minister Kapil Sibal has stirred a hornet’s nest with his proposal to filter user content before it goes viral on social networking sites. The online content row has triggered an assortment of reactions from the virtual world and from the Indian polity.
While some Netizens have tweeted foul and given thumbs down to censorship, there are others who have backed Sibal’s proposal to prescreen inflammatory comments.
Bangladeshi author Tasleema Nasreen took a dig at Sibal on Twitter, “Minister of world’s largest democracy is in favour of Internet censorship. But there’s no democracy w/out free speech.”
Author Chetan Bhagat slammed the idea, tweeting, “I hate some of the stuff written on the Internet, but I'd hate it even more if they were not allowed to write it. You can't censor the Internet.”
Amid a furious debate on Twitter, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor chose to take the middle path. He tweeted, “I reject censorship. Art, literature and political opinion are sacrosanct. But inflammatory communal incitement is like a match at a petrol pump.”
Stockbroker Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, however, went hammer and tongs after Sibal. “If Kapil Sibal wants to jail us for speaking our mind on the Internet, go ahead! We'll just go ahead and get bail like Kanimozhi,” he tweeted.
Notwithstanding the groundswell of sentiment against Sibal on the web, the Congress came out in support of the minister.
Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, “If someone tries to use social networking sites to hurt religious sentiments, it should be strictly dealt with. If Sibal has asked for mechanism to stop it, he is right.”
Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh too backed Sibal saying there should be a limit to freedom of expression on the Internet.
The Left was measured in its reaction. CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat said, “We are not talking about censorship. But there is a problem if the content that is uploaded is liable for criminal action.”
BJP MP Varun Gandhi, however, took on Sibal arguing that the Internet was the only true democratic medium free of vested interests. “Look at the contribution it made in enabling mass movements, from Anna Hazare to Tahrir Square. Can see why Sibal wants to gag it,” Gandhi said.