Last month saw much drama over the fact that Kapil Sibal, our venerable Minister for Human Resources and Development, effectively wanted to censor the Internet and Social Media due to the risk of people viewing ‘objectionable’ content. He recanted later saying that he did not want to do all that but wanted companies like Facebook and Google to regulate the process whereby objectionable content be removed viapre-screening.
After facing many threats, abuses and critical comments Sibal has seemingly backed out for now. But some people are still giving into this flawed logic and submitting criminal complaints in a court.The Delhi High Court has sought a reply from the Delhi Police regarding the petitions filed by Facebook India, Google India and many other social networks challenging the criminal trial court order which makes them liable for ‘objectionable’ content that is available on their sites. On December 23, the trial court had called upon 21 representatives from prominent Social networking sites, platforms and companies which include Facebook, Google, Microsoft & Yahoo etc. after receiving a criminal complaint.
This is regarding a complaint filed by Vinay Rai, a journalist who had submitted some instances of derogatory articles relating to Gods from various religions including Hinduism, Islam and Christianity.
Let us get one thing clear here. Why are these companies bearing the brunt of something that someone else has posted on their services?
Does it really make any sense? The perfect analogy here is the police accusing a bus driver of committing a robbery because the actual criminal took a bus to that location. These companies are not web-casting anything. These are just services so that people can web-cast their thoughts and views. And what does ‘objectionable’ even mean? This is as vague as SOPA! Do we have freedom of speech and expression in this country? Yes we do, then why is Social Media any different than real life. This excuse for ‘derogatory’ content can be twisted to suit many personal and political needs that these politicos and parties have. The courts are saying that this is anti-religious and anti-social and can be used to promote communal disharmony and hatred. These speculations are simply uncalled for. If you do not like what you are seeing, please don’t use that service. I believe all browsers come equipped with ‘close window’ button.
Many Social networking companies have their own content guidelines that they stick to and they do regularly check their media to weed out content which does not fit into their terms and conditions. As we progress into a Digital Age we should rid ourselves of such unwarranted zealousness and bigotism!