Online uproar as India seeks social media screening
India has urged social network companies including Facebook, Twitter and Google to remove offensive material, unleashing a storm of criticism from Internet users complaining of censorship in the world's largest democracy.
Telecoms and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal met executives from Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Monday to ask them to screen content, but no agreement with the companies was reached, he said.
Sibal denied he was promoting censorship but said some of the images and statements on social media risked fanning tensions in India, which has a long history of deadly religious violence. He said the firms had rebuffed earlier calls to take action.
Socially conservative India already censors some films and books considered obscene or likely to stoke religious conflict.
The country of 1.2 billion people created new rules earlier this year obliging Internet companies to remove a range of objectionable content when requested to do so, a move criticized at the time by rights groups and social media companies.
A New York Times report Monday that said Sibal called executives about six weeks ago and showed them a Facebook page that maligned ruling Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi and told them it was "unacceptable."
Despite the rules in place, India's Internet access is largely unrestricted, in contrast to tight controls in fellow Asian economic powerhouse China.
India's bloggers and Twitter users scorned the minister's proposals, saying a prefiltering system would limit free expression and was impossible to implement. The phrase #IdiotKapilSibal was one of India's most tweeted Tuesday.
"The idea of prescreening is impossible. How will they do it?...There is no technology currently that determines whether content is 'defamatory' or 'offensive'," India-based cyber security expert Vijay Mukhi told Reuters.