Kapil Sibal’s suggestion that websites like Facebook, Google and Yahoo! should monitor offensive content may have sparked off a deluge of criticism in cyberspace, but the communications and IT minister indicated the government is working on guidelines to enforce this.
Sibal on Tuesday said the intention was to monitor objectionable content and not interfere with freedom of expression. “We will evolve guidelines to ensure such content is not part of any platform,” he said. “We do not want to interfere with the freedom of press.”
A Google spokesperson said, “We follow the law when it comes to illegal content… But it also means that when content is legal but controversial, we don’t remove it because people’s differing views should be respected, so long as they are legal.”
Sibal said he wanted “human intervention until these platforms develop technologies to stop objectionable content from getting published”.
Countries like China, Saudi Arabia and Iran censor the internet. China has 30,000 cyber-policemen who monitor the net.
On September 5, Sibal had suggested to the major websites that they “should evolve a mechanism to ensure such content is removed as soon as possible”.
On Monday, the companies replied that they would not be able to do anything about that mechanism and “the community standards of the US will apply here”, said Sibal.
Several industry experts, though, have raised fears that what Sibal proposes could go beyond offensive material. Cyber law expert Pawan Duggal said the legal provisions are already in place, so there is no need for separate guidelines. As per law, “once companies are notified by an affected person or by the government that there is defamatory content, they need to remove it within 36 hours or they become co-accused in these crimes”.
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