Dec 052011

This from the NYT today

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.

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.

before it goes online .. how.

I can imagine a “Minority Report’ Kind of a scenario – you are just typing out a disparaging remark and the thought police comes by and arrests you.


Currently, there are 38 million FB users from India, about 50% of all internet users use the service. FB has added 11 million people in the last 6 months.

This is just the traffic out of India. It does not include all the Indians who are active across on social media across the globe. So, do only Indians from India get censored or is the GoI declaring a larger “akhand bharat” across the globe and declaring its rights over People of Indian origin, irrespective of their nationality.

What about content put up by the British – are they Indian too – after all they stayed here long enough! or a Pakistani or an Australian or an person from Guyana… or is the Government reverting to the ancient saying of “vasudeva kutumbam” and declaring the whole world to be Indian to monitor the content of everyone.


Also, As of this week FB announced that

In September, we increased the character limit on status updates to 5,000 characters. Today, we’re announcing that you can now write posts with more than 60,000 characters.

38 million people posting between 200 to 60,000 characters – plus pages, plus posts, notes, blog imports, link posts etal. And, this only is FB. I don’t know how many blogs there are, how many active twitter users, and how many people active on discussion groups and the rest.

It would be very interesting to know how the Government plans to screen content before it is posted. You are going to put 38 million status updates and assorted stuff into moderation ?


And finally, what is –disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory content. Is saying “my boss / client is an ass” is that disparaging (the ass might object)… What is inflammatory – if i post a chunk from the Mahabharata, the bit where Shishupala is deriding Krishna – is that inflammatory (if it was said today, there would be riots) . Has the Governemnt even read Dr.Ambedkar on why Caste should be Annihilated – (it can be considered to be all three).

If people are abusing the Government, conduct a PR activity, don’t censor. It will just confirm what they are saying about you. Besides, as a citizen, it is my right to criticize the Government, they exist to make your life easier. Not to restrict your freedom to crib.


btw – can anyone compute the manpower required to screen 38 million status updates and other sundry posts out of India … does that manpower even exist?

  5 Responses to “Censoring Status Updates”

  1. my two cents worth to add …

    1. A portion of the social media stuff has an open architecture that may be amenable to automated parsing and processing, that may result in some generic ‘cease and desist’ automated warning messages sent to end users or ISPs.

    2. The gov. makes suitable, periodic, and random examples of a few prominent targets, which may discourage many more. Whether they will be able to obtain that authority to carry out sweeping actions is doubtful, as the post alludes to.

    3. Doing (1) and (2) would ultimately be ineffective as well as a PR disaster. But the point is that UPA2 has projected itself as a party that is crazy enough to consistently go for the idiotic option (e.g. Anna Hazare jailing, Ramdev eviction, FDI tomorrow, ..) and this expectation more than (1, 2) can make a few netizens nervous. And they seem to have nothing lose, what with the Party of Jelly Beans in the opposition. After all, despite this unprecedented streak of disasters, frauds, and flops, they still seriously back themselves to a third term with an idiot to replace that miracle econ prof (a cubic spline connects his head and back).

  2. I too believe something should be done .people in india are using such foul and cheap language on Internet (Facebook ,YouTube etc )..
    You have the right to criticise people ,but you can’t get cheap and personal about public figures in public .
    Although the method suggested is unworkable and impractical , some way should be found ,because when people read such personal and derogatory remarks ,they too are influenced and do the same . Is Indian society so cheap ?? Disgrace n shamefully state .. The comfort of the Internet and anonymity is being misused .

  3. What men. What question you are asking. This is govt. plan to give 100% employement to indians. Tchah. Such knowledgeable lady and not knowing this much also .



  4. It isn’t just our right to criticize government, it is our duty. As to foul language on the internet being so unbearable that it requires legislative oversight (as mentioned by another commenter), well. That’s an insidiously prevalent feeling here. And it’s dead wrong. Look, we can barely trust government to actually conduct the business of government. The objective stuff. The fact-based, data-driven stuff. And now you want that same government to tell us what is and isn’t all right to say? We should legislate to protect wounded egos and injured pride? Tragic.

  5. @ Rahul Jagdale: People use foul language in the society… how u can bar them on the internet.And Yes not only Indian society but all societies are cheap as per your moral standard.

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