‘Offensive matter on Facebook, Twitter will be removed’


New Delhi : The Indian government will not allow social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to host “objectionable” content and will take steps to screen and remove these, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal said Tuesday.

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Sibal said this a day after representatives from Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Microsoft during a meeting with him declined to remove offensive content.

Sibal said some of the content available on these sites could hurt the religious sentiments of a large section of communities in India. “Religious sentiments of many communities and of any reasonable person is being hurt because of content which is on the sites,” he told reporters here.

The minister said he had first met with officials of Facebook, Twitter and Orkut on Sep 5 to discuss the concerns of the government over objectionable pictures being posted on their sites by users.

The pictures, which were shown off the record, depicted Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a bad light, while some others were insulting to various religions.

“Nobody minds satirical image of any public personality but if you show a certain form of me… this is not acceptable. Even individuals should be protected,” said Sibal.

The minister said these firms were hesitant to even share information relating to terrorist activities.

“They will have to give us data, then there will be actions taken. We will ask them to give information. Allow us time to deal with it. But one things is sure we will not allow this kind of content,” Sibal said on being asked about the contours of the actions to be taken.

Sibal, however, did not say what the steps could be.

The secretary, department of telecommunications, R. Chandrashekhar, had also called a meeting with them on Oct 19 and it was decided that a framework would be prepared for the code of conduct of the intermediary in cases of these kinds of material or content.

“They orally agreed to many of the clauses but in a written reply did not agreed to any of the clauses.” he added.

After a series of meetings, the companies did not provide a solution to the problem and did not remove the content either saying that they will take any action only if the ministry came with court orders.

The minister said he did not want to come to the press on this issue but was forced to do so after the New York Times reported that the government was trying to censor these sites, which was not true.

“This is far from the truth. If someone does not wants to remove this kind of incendiary material then the government has to do something about it,” said Sibal.

According to the minister these platforms should evolve a mechanism on their own to ensure that such contents are removed as soon as they get to know of it the government never wanted to interface.

“This government does not believe in either directly or indirectly interfering in the freedom of the press,” he said.