The Indian government is meeting with executives from Internet companies and social networks on Monday to ask the companies to screen content from users in India before posting it. It is only the latest round in the government’s attempt to censor the Internet.
India’s telecommunications minister, Kapil Sibal, will meet with executives from Facebook, Goolge, Microsoft and Yahoo Monday to discuss the matter. The request comes in reaction to disparaging comments made on Facebook about Sonia Gandhi, a top Indian politician. It is not the first meeting Sibal has held on the matter.
About six weeks ago, Sibal met with legal representatives from the companies in his New Delhi office and showed them the unflattering remarks on Facebook, saying it was unacceptable. A second meeting was held in November in which he demanded they use human beings to screen content instead of automation.
The companies, according to Mashable, plan to tell Sibal that the request is impossible, both because of the sheer volume of user-generated material originating from the country — which has increased thanks to custom mobile applications — and the vague nature of what constitutes objectionable or inflammatory comments.
Prior to this latest round of talks, the Indian government threatened to shut off services from BlackBerry unless the makers of the device allowed the country’s law enforcement agencies access to encrypted material. The company refused and, ultimately, the Indian government backed off on its threat.
The Indian government passed a law in April to censor any material that was “grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous,” “ethnically objectionable,” or “disparaging.” Under the law, websites are required to take down any content the the government rules as unacceptable within 36 hours of notification.
India is just one of many nations attempting to restrict content on the Internet. According to Google, India made 68 requests for the search engine to delete content between January and June of 2011. That is the fifth highest number of requests made by any nation. The top number came from Brazil, with 224 requests. Germany, the United States, South Korea and Taiwan all made made more requests than did India.
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