India wants internet companies to screen user content

6 Dec 2011

Companies such as Facebook and Google have reportedly refused demands from the Indian government to screen user content before it is posted on the web.

The Washington Post reports that India’s telecommunication minister, Kapil Sibal, met with officials from the Indian units of Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! yesterday to discuss prescreening user content and removing anything derogatory before it’s posted online.

Sibal said he has spoke with officials over a number of months to create a voluntary framework to screen derogatory content. It stems from the Indian government’s disapproval of web pages dedicated to insulting its prime minister, Manmohan Singh, ruling congress party leader, Sonia Gandhi, and major religious figures.

However, the companies would not agree to these demands, so Sibal has said the government would have to formulate its own policy on the matter. He said the companies were applying “US standards” to their sites and asked them to keep Indian sensibilities in mind.

Facebook said it removes “hateful, threatening” content which “incites violence or contains nudity.” It said it would continue to engage with the Indian government on this issue.

It’s the latest measure the Indian government has taken with technology companies over the control of information. In April, it asked internet service providers to delete information posted online that was deemed disparaging.

Last year, it asked RIM to give its security services the means to decode encrypted BlackBerry messages or face a ban in the region. It has since backed down on this issue.