Filtering FaceBook, Google and Twitter


And 21 other websites !

That is what Delhi High Court and the Government of India want to do.

The matter is now coming to a head, and it might yield dangerous results.

Both for the Government of India and the 21 websites !

According to a Time of India report, the Delhi Court “had on December 23 issued summons to 21 social netorking websites for allegedly committing offences of criminal conspiracy, sale of obscene books and sale of obscene objects to young persons. It had said prima facie the accused companies were liable to be summoned for promoting enmity between classes, causing prejudice to national integration and insulting religion or religious belief of any class…….”.

I have written about this topic earlier. My views on “objectionable” content on heavily used websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Yahoo are more or less the same as that of the law of the land. Nobody is above the law of the land, notwithstanding fancy foreign names.

The only objection I do have is the removal of “politically sensitive” matters from these sites. That will go against the freedom of speech that is enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Ofcourse, if any politician or political party wish to pursue charges against these sites for politically objectionable or sensitive content, they are free to file a case in a court of law in India – no issue with that, but they rarely take that action. And, I don’t understand why a politician would not take immediate action if he is defamed.

However, I do not have objection for the removal of racially sensitive or religiously objectionable content from these sites. These sites are not a “global”, “regional”, or a “national” publishing platform. They are not a licensed publishing “media” in that sense. And, there is no recourse against frivolous content published on their sites which could hurt the public sentiments in several areas.

Ofcourse, the sites can easily claim (and they have done so) that they are only providing a platform, and the content is not theirs. By that argument, a copyright owner cannot proceed if his content gets published without his permission – what recourse he has against a “platform” ?

We need to apply our own thinking hats and decide what is right and wrong, instead of following precedents from totally different environments. I am not, for a moment, saying that Asians and Indians are thin-skinned. I am only saying that there should be a mechanism for proceeding against either the content owner or a content aggregator/publisher in the absence of access to the content owner. The content owner published his objectionable content using the free service provided by the platform. He could have used his own platform, but he chose a widely trafficked platform to create maximum impact, didn’t he ?

Well, my readers may not like what I am expressing. But I truly feel that we should respect each others’ positions and views on this matter. Yes, it is easy to beat up each other – people do get targeted for expressing their views. That happens in free democratic societies (actually more often these days) than in autocratic or theocratic societies. Is there a conflict with democratic ideals ?

You bet.

Well, think carefully before jumping into the bandwagon which supports Facebook all the way. And, think for yourself and your society, what is right and what could be wrong, in fact, what is going wrong these days.

Cheers

Vijay Srinivasan
14th January 2012
Mumbai

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