India Asks Google, Facebook to Screen User Content is what was the title of New York Times story on our honourable and learned minister of world’s largest democracy advising Facebook, Twitter et al. to restrict and better censor what is disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory. This came in the backdrop of a barrage of ‘uncivilised’ criticism that has been going on the internet about all leaders in general and particularly the Gandhi family.
Apparently being the former telecom minister and now HRD minister, probably it’s perfectly appropriate for Sibal to advise about whatever ‘wrong’ goes on the internet. But that it would backfire again just months after he became the culprit no. 1 of Team Anna led India Against Corruption’s basically online mobilised campaign is something an old generation guy like him might have miscalculated. To his dismay, the bad thing about social networking is that with time such criticisms keep on being bigger, wider and younger.
But there are another aspect of Sibal’s personality that his ‘this is unacceptable’ advice should draw attention to.
The New York Times story tarnished the image of India by using that India says so. As a country where freedom of speech and expression is a constitutionally guaranteed right, one of its top ministers getting into one after another round of high-handedness should be equally unacceptable. That Kapil Sibal is one of the top lawyers of this country and belongs to the party that is India’s oldest (ignore for the ‘Inalienable ties’ of Congress Party with the Nehru-Gandhi family) and claims to represent India no less than anybody else makes it more sad.
Agreed, the criticism on social networking sites are many a times far from what a civilised society ought to do. Agreed, freedom of expression should not be about going overboard in someone’s criticism. But if we let anyone like Kapil Sibal ban this today, it’s not going to stop there. Thereafter, there will be another Kapil Sibal in this government or any government that comes after this and who would want some other content to be restricted and censored.
See what have they done to the Tibetan flag in the recent movie Rockstar. That you have a censor board to decide what should be shown in a movie doesn’t give you the right to correct your ‘Make China Happy’ foreign policy through censoring even genuine content.
The mentality that thinks that people should not go overboard while criticising leaders should be actually thinking that why Sonia and why politicians are on the target of common people.
It’s not being done on the internet alone. It’s being done by every single person through whatever means they have. Social networking sites only provide a platform.
It’s also not right that social networking sites are irresponsible when it comes to derogatory content. Facebook doesn’t let porn or sleaze to be circulated. You have an option to report if such a thing is going on. You can use the block option as well, if you don’t want it. But now we have a minister who wants Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! and Google to censor what could be politically uncomfortable is pitiful.
Why is the government not able to stop corruption and have a clean image for itself? Why despite all its claims corruption is on the rise? Why we have a constantly self defeating target for growth? And why we don’t have a single politician whom we can call honest, fair, transparent and a person with authority?