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Internet censorship-Is it an attempt to strangle Right to Freedom of expression?

It seems like decisions and Acts regarding internet censorship are taking rounds worldwide. After the proposed legislations like SOPA and PIPA in United States, the Indian Government has also stood in favor of internet censorship.

If the intention of government agencies of catching control over content on social media network in India comes in to effect, the freedom of speech and expression on the internet is likely to get in danger.

Justice Suresh Kait of the Delhi High Court in its recent ruling directed the Facebook and Google to either monitor the offensive content being posted on their websites or face a block in the country.

The court directions were preceded by objection raised by Communications minister Kapil Sibbal in late December 2011, on the obscene pictures and articles posted online, defaming and tarnishing the image of prominent political leaders.

Sibbal in a meeting with the officials representing various social networking sites at New Delhi had asked to frame a mechanism to edit or pre-check the inappropriate content before it appears online.

The Indian Government, by its decision to monitor the content on internet has been facing wide criticism. The notice has clearly not gone down well with masses who term this as a deceptive way to follow the steps of China.

It is noted that in China, the internet censorship is conducted through more than 60 internet regulations made by the PRC (People’s Republic of China), which has led to the ban of popular social networking sites, blogging platforms, videos and image sharing websites and other web hosting services to face a ban in the country.

In Delhi High Court on Thursday, advocating on behalf of Google India, Mukul Rohtagi, said that some of the articles were obscene but the company could not control it.

“No human interference is possible and, moreover, it can’t be feasible to check such incidents. Billions of people across the globe post their articles on the website. Yes, they may be defamatory, obscene but cannot be checked”, he said.

Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Facebook India, told court that it was impossible to control the content with billions of people accessing the site. “A third party who uploads the content is not touched and we are sought to be liable in the case. Facebook India is not the controller of, it is which removes the content not me,” he stated.

Undoubtedly the internet has spurred a lot of campaigns in India, lately. From fetching people to come forward in favor of justice for Jessica Lal to giving momentum to Anna Hazare’s movement for Jan Lokpal Bill, it is a powerful medium for common men to express views.

Government has declared that if the social networking sites are not willing to cooperate on stopping incendiary material, appropriate steps will be taken against them.

And the social networking sites have already expressed their inability to monitor each and every user’s post online, stating that they have suitably defined process to remove online content if someone complains.

Well, time will decide the fate of social networking sites in India.

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