Concerned over objectionable content on social networking sites, the government on Tuesday made it clear it cannot allow this to go on and has asked internet firms like Google and Facebook to fall in line.
“I suggested that these platforms should evolve a mechanism on their own to ensure that such contents are removed as soon as they get to know of it… I have told them that this cannot go on. I believe that no reasonable person, aware of the sensibilities of a large section of the communities in this country, would wish to see this in the public domain,” Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal told reporters in New Delhi.
Asking these firms to evolve a mechanism and come back with a solution, Sibal said, “This government does not believe in either directly or indirectly interfering in the freedom of the press but religious sentiments should not be allowed to be hurt.”
The content posted on some of the sites, the minister said, was so offensive that it would hurt the religious sentiments of a large section of communities in the country.
These contents would also offend any reasonable person looking at those images.
Echoeing the same sentiment, Congress Spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the intention is not to censor such content, but to regulate web content.
Sibal further said that internet firms were asked in September to find ways to handle the objectionable content within four weeks, but they did not respond despite repeated reminders.
In early November, the government had prepared the framework for a code of conduct for handling objectionable information. The issue was also discussed with Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Facebook, he said.
Internet firms have “backtracked” in giving written a response to the framework prepared by the government, Sibal said.
“Orally, they had given consent to some of the clauses, but in writing, they backtracked. They said they cannot do anything. They also suggested that community standards of the US will apply here.”
Sibal, however, cited US Supreme Court judgements that said community standards differ in the US from place to place.
“Even if the US laws were to be applied here, the community standards in India have to be taken into account,” he said.
Asked about the future course of action, the minister said: “… Whatever step we take now, we will do it after careful consideration.”
The government will “certainly evolve” a guideline to ensure that such “blasphemous” material is not part of the content on any platform, he said.