Censoring the web: impossible, unacceptable
Shayon Pal, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 06, 2011
First Published: 14:43 IST(6/12/2011)
Last Updated: 17:11 IST(7/12/2011)
Even though Sibal says, "The Indian government doesn't believe in censorship, it believes in self-regulation,” the current rumors and reports from New York Times make us believe otherwise.
NYT had reported that officials from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook had met with Kapil Sibal yesterday afternoon to discuss on ways to prevent inflammatory and objectionable content to get pre-screened before they get published on the various social networking websites.
What more, the Minister of Communications & Information Technology also expects the respective companies to hire human beings to screen all the content that gets created by the Indian.
This is a classic case of being high handed and also being clueless about the technology that is being dealt with. Of course, it is heartening to know that the companies had refused to comply for now citing such an exercise is an herculean task and that the content fall in place with community standards and U.S. laws. But the very prospective of the government trying to monitor and censor every single byte travelling on the Internet highway is a scary thought.
It was a different matter when the Indian Government wanted to monitor all Internet traffic, including Blackberry Enterprise email, BBM Messages and VoIP conversations.
Algorithms could easily be devised to look out for certain keywords that the authority might seem derogatory or objectionable. But taking a decision on its validation is a subjective decision, and if impossible to be taken by not just algorithms, but more so by human beings.
Today, Mr Sibal might find a community on Sonia Gandhi objectionable. Tomorrow, nothing stops the BJP party, once in power, to silence all voice speaking against MrAdvani – be it on the social networks, micro-blogging sites on blogs. Additionally, where should the line be drawn?
Social Media Today estimates that social networks register roughly 360 billion pieces of content every year. If we assume India generates even 0.1 % of the same, that amounts to 360 million pieces a year, or 1 million pieces a day. I wonder if anyone had even tried to calculate the strength of work force that shall be needed to monitor such a huge volume of traffic?
What next? Maybe newspapers and news channels need censorship too? The very same social networks that Mr Sibal wishes to monitor are already replete with jokes on this issue. Here’s one such popular content. Maybe be it is these images that justify the minister’s concerns.