India wants Google, Facebook to screen content

Social sites mum on request to screen 'disparaging' text, images

The government of India has asked Internet giants Google, Facebook and Yahoo to screen user content from that country and nix anything "disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory," according to reports.

On Monday, India's Telecoms and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal asked executives from top Internet companies to screen the content users in India can see, Reuters reported. Sibal reportedly said that text and pictures on social networking sites like Facebook and Google+ could fan religious or communal tensions.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment; Yahoo declined comment on the situation.

A Google spokeswoman declined to specify whether the company plans on going along with India's request.

"We believe that access to information is the foundation of a free society," said Google in a written statement emailed to Computerworld. "Google Search helps spread knowledge, enabling people to find out about almost anything by typing a few words into a computer. And services like YouTube and Google+ help users to express themselves and share different points of view. Where content is illegal or breaks our terms of service we will continue to remove it."

The New York Times reported this week that Sibal met with leaders from service providers, as well as with Facebook. During the meeting, he reported showed those in attendance a Facebook page that disparaged Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress Party.

"This is unacceptable," he reportedly said, asking the executives to screen what goes on their sites.

People were quick to take to Twitter to vent their frustrations with the request.

SachinKalbag tweeted, "If Kapil Sibal has his way, India faces an Internet "Emergency". The entire nation should stand up and oppose it." And Leopard212 tweeted, "Kapil Sibal for Nobel Peace Prize for pre empting any communal violence by censoring and gagging the people of India."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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