Tuesday, December 6

India Asks Google, Facebook to Screen User Content


The Indian government has asked Internet companies and social media sites like Facebook to prescreen user content from India and to remove disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory content before it goes online, three executives in the information technology industry say.
Top officials from the Indian units of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook are meeting with Kapil Sibal, India’s acting telecommunications minister, on Monday afternoon to discuss the issue, say two executives of Internet companies. The executives asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media on the issue.
Mr. Sibal’s office confirmed that he would meet with Internet service providers Monday but did not provide more information about the content of the meeting.
About six weeks ago, Mr. Sibal called legal representatives from the top Internet service providers and Facebook into his New Delhi office, said one of the executives who was briefed on the meeting.
At the meeting, Mr. Sibal showed attendees a Facebook page that maligned the Congress Party’s president, Sonia Gandhi.  “This is unacceptable,” he told attendees, the executive said, and he asked them to find a way to monitor what is posted on their sites.
In the second meeting with the same executives in late November, Mr. Sibal told them that he expected them to use human beings to screen content, not technology, the executive said.
The three executives said Mr. Sibal has told these companies that he expects them to set up a proactive prescreening system, with staffers looking for objectionable content and deleting it before it is posted.
The executives said representatives from these companies will tell Mr. Sibal at the meeting on Monday that his demand is impossible, given the volume of user-generated content coming from India, and that they cannot be responsible for determining what is and isn’t defamatory or disparaging.
“If there’s a law and there’s a court order, we can follow up on it,” said an executive from one of the companies attending the meeting. But these companies can’t be in the business of deciding what is and isn’t legal to post, he said.
Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft did not respond immediately to calls for comment, and a Google spokeswoman said the company had no comment on the issue. Facebook said earlier this year it has more than 25 million users in India. Google has over 100 million Internet users in India.
The demand is the Indian government’s latest attempt to monitor and control electronic information. In April, the ministry issued rules demanding Internet service providers delete information posted on Web sites that officials or private citizens deemed disparaging or harassing. Last year, the government battled with Blackberry’s manufacturer, Research In Motion, threatening to shut the company’s service off in India if it did not allow government officials greater access to users’ messages.
The Indian government also plans to set up its own unit to monitor information posted on Web sites and social media sites, executives said, which will report to Gulshan Rai, the director general of India’s cyber-security monitor.
A man who answered the phone in Mr. Rai’s office said he did not talk to the press and hung up when a reporter asked for a press contact.
Some Indian cities like Mumbai have already set up special units to monitor Internet sites like Facebook and Orkut, the social networking site operated by Google, for content considered disparaging or obscene. India has made nearly 70 requests to Google to remove content between January and June of this year, one of the highest request rates of any country though less than the United States’s 92 and Brazil’s 224, according to Google’s transparency report.


SOURCE: New York Times

Speak your mind