Social Media Censorship in India: Yay or Nay? [Update from 84th Social Media Breakfast]

We’ve seen it in the news, streams on facebook walls and discussion over the watercooler. It is quite a debate on censoring Social Media. With ruling politicians in India (Kapil Sibal) making noise on it, international reactions from Ban Ki Moon (current Secretary-General of the United Nations) and Hillary Clinton voicing opinions on it. It is interesting to note that World’s largest democracy is engaging in battles over the future of how information can be monitored and circulated online. This was the hot topic at the 84th Social Media Breakfast in New Delhi. Our aim was to stir up a discussion, and look at the current evolution of Social Media as a platform to communicate.

Divided house

The Meetup turned out as expected, a divided house on the issue of Social Censorship in India, though towards the end we agreed to have a consensus on having a user poll to determine the winner. Social Media unlike the traditional media channels is wildly democratic, everyone has a voice and the source of stories get lost when it receives the viral status. You cannot ban people from expressing or censor if they have something to say.

With great power comes great responsibility

Was Spiderman right in saying this? Social Media is giving powerful tools to the people to communicate, to voice their opinions, share their ideas and biases at the same time. Its a wildly democratic new kind of online society building up, which can topple governments, bring big brands to task, can cause riots and can spread the viral love. On one hand, someone morphs pictures of sacred religious figures in one part of the world, and riots break out on the other side of the globe. On other hand, funny videos bring everyone together in one great viral glue. The world has never seen sharing information at this speed, evident from the fact that governments are figuring ways out to control this beast. China on one side are clear about their censorship policies, companies not complying with them are shown the door (Google). Countries like India are still figuring out what to do with this monster, which looks like the tip of an iceberg.

So we reached a consensus

With the discussion divided on the issue of censoring or monitoring social media, we did agree that the framework to prevent abuse on Social Media must evolve organically. If some users can abuse the medium, others can clean it. It was decided to have a user poll by way of this post, both views are expressed below, What do you think?

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  1. #1 by Ramesh (@netargument) on December 20, 2011 - 7:10 am


    We need some kind of firewall to connect with the external world, because, our complete information in the hand of foreigners is very dangerous for security of state. Wikipidea, Google & Facebook too are a kind of maxim guns of colonial era, which are waiting to fire on us. I don’t say we should support everything that Kapil Sibal says, however, we do have our own responsibility to contribute to the security framework of India. We are in a very dangerous situation of being completely led by Google, Wikipedia, facebook regime. Today, they appear to be different, but a collusion between them with some top authority dictating their agenda on them is not ruled out. After all they are all american firms. I know Kapil Sibal’s vision doesn’t go that far, he is simply interested in Congress’s image, but he should take it a bit farther. China is a live example. They have every alternative to what we call Google, Wikipedia or facebook.


    • #2 by Anshul on December 20, 2011 - 7:41 am

      Yes you are right that China has every alternative but let me remind you that they are portraying what their govt wants not what their people want.
      China is a communist country and India is a democratic country. It will just hamper the Right to Speech. These websites are the heart of the web world and thus help us in doing daily work. We should be thankful to them rather than misunderstanding them. Kapil Sibal is just doing what a non performer does in every office.

  2. #3 by Ramesh (@netargument) on December 20, 2011 - 8:06 am

    I am not sure why you say “misunderstanding them”. People may want free porn as right but that is not something in the interest of the society. During the colonial era China was at least ruled by native rulers but Africa and India were worst affected by maxim Guns (I hope you know what they were). Presently too India and Africa are their prime target. You should also know, Russians use Yandex, chinese use Baidu, Japanese use (not to be confused with yahoo inc, with whom they have nothing to do, it is totally owned by japs.) but Indian and africans still want to be led by Americans, who have no regard for their legal system.

  3. #4 by Ravi Mathur (@ravimathur15) on December 20, 2011 - 4:39 pm

    Dear Ramesh and Anshul the case of Kapil Sibal asking Google, Facebook, and co. to actively screen and filter all content before it is uploaded on their sites. Yes, on the face of it, it does seem rather an idiotic thing to say. However, my dear friends, I am willing to bet that Kapil Sibal is much smarter than you and me combined. He is a lawyer, he was the Solicitor-General of India, he had cleared the IAS exam (which is ridiculously difficult), and he has beaten Kyuki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi in an election. So the best you and I can say is that we don’t really understand why Kapil Sibal is making such statements. There could be any number of reasons that you’ll never know. Maybe this is a move designed to win over rural voters. Maybe this is just a public stunt to soften up Google, Facebook for a backroom deal later on at terms very favorable to the Congress party. Maybe this is a way to make sure that Google, Facebook are very co-operative and pliable when police (or other government bodies) approach them with requests for private data.

    As far as the question goes My answer is “yes”. I think that the Internet Content should be censored because Internet is a source of information. As any source of information the Internet should just contain the information and give people opportunity to interpret and analyze it for themselves. If you are morphing somebody’s picture to interpret your opinion than the children who don’t have the guile to gauge what’s hot and what’s not will make that as their opinion … why do we censor our children from watching adult movies bcoz we fear they will develop an opinion which they shouldn’t .. and hence same goes with the internet

  4. #5 by Anirudh Sethi on December 21, 2011 - 6:40 am

    Well My dear friends, censoring social media content and creating laws to define boundaries for them are two different things. Remeber when some one threw shoes at then President of USA Geogre W. Bush in a press conference, the person was punished by law, but they didn’t created a rule stating that you can’t wear shoes at press conferences. Similarly we have laws stating that you can’t defame someone, but censoring every post, or every blog doesn’t makes sense, and if it happens it will be felony of law, as it will suppress the constitutional right of freedom of expression. Now for a moment if i say every post in India will be censored, then my comment on this blog will take weeks before it gets published, and whole concept of social media will be lost. My answer to this question is a big Nay.

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