According to Indian officials, Internet giants Google and Facebook have failed to screen online material adequately and may be banned from the country as a result.
Kapil Sibal, the Indian telecommunications minister, says that material the government finds offensive will not be tolerated. “We don’t want to interfere in freedom of the press, but this kind of material should not be allowed,” Sibal said.
Before a news conference, Sibal showed reporters illustrations from the Internet that showed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other national politicians in compromising positions and an illustration of pigs running through Mecca, a city many Muslims consider to be holy.
According to The Associated Press, “Facebook has three pages titled ‘I hate Sonia Gandhi,’ two titled ‘We hate Sonia Gandhi,’ and one titled ‘Manmohan Singh is a puppet of Sonia Gandhi.’” This may be why Indian officials take umbrage with Facebook, which has more than 25 million Indian users.
But Facebook isn’t the government’s only target. According to Google, Indian officials made 68 requests to the company this year alone to remove content. The government also expressed concern that the popular Google Earth app could be used by terrorists against their country.
In a statement, Google said, “We recognize the government’s interest in minimizing the amount of abusive content that is available online…But when content is legal and doesn’t violate our policies, we won’t remove it just because it’s controversial, as we believe that people’s differing views, so long as they’re legal, should be respected and protected,” Google said.
India has a long history of conflicts with technology companies, writes The Associated Press. The problem has been information access. Telecommunications minister Kapil Sibal says that many companies have been reluctant to hand over data the government asks for, in order to help them counter the terrorist threat.
Ravi Nessman of The A.P. writes, “Last year, India threatened to ban the popular corporate email and messenger services on Blackberry devices amid security concerns over access to encrypted information. The government later backed down.”
It will be interesting to watch this situation develop if only to discover who has true staying power in India–Google and Facebook or India’s current government. Visit Kiwi Commons for updates on this story as it develops!
Talk To Us! Should India ban Google and Facebook if they don’t adequately censor views that are critical of the government?
Image source: No Slaves