ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Regulating Internet Content

A clueless government seems to be lurching towards regressive restrictions.

Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal has ran afoul of many among the internetusing public in the country with his pronouncements about active pre-screening and removal of “objectionable” content from social networking websites. Sibal has sought to put the onus on “intermediaries” – sites hosted by companies such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – to proactively remove such content. The minister’s chief argument is that there is no better alternative to the websites themselves monitoring and removing objectionable content, because legal action against those posting inflammatory or abusive matter is rendered difficult by the very nature of the net. Servers hosting such content and the individuals responsible for them are often abroad, making it impossible for the Government of India to obtain information about those posting such matter.

The internet has long changed from being a network of computers hosting information for viewing or facilitating communications to becoming a more dynamic, highly interactive, collaborative, and virtual community. The social networking websites have been the media for interactions and collaborations and are not merely hosts of information. It is clear that the government has not understood the functional nature of the networking sites. When Sibal asks them to proactively monitor and pre-screen content or else invite legal action, he reveals a lack of appreciation of the change that the internet has gone through.

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