The whole issue started about six weeks ago when Kapil Sibal, the acting telecommunications minister of India, called a meeting to show legal representatives of Facebook and top Internet service providers a Facebook page that showed the Congress Party’s president, Sonia Gandhi, in a negative light.
Sibal is now proposing all content shown on the social networking site, Facebook, be prescreened before being allowed for publishing. He assures, however, that the prescreening would be done by human beings and not machines. If the plan passes, everything in India will be subject to censorship at the discretion of those screening the content, and thus a violation of the nation’s freedom of speech.
With a constitution similar to that of the United States’, India’s document states “…and to secure to all its citizens: Justice, social, economic, and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship…” What it seems Sibal is failing to realize now is that sometimes that freedom of expression includes political cartoons that show the negative feelings some citizens hold toward their country.
Internet providers under attack from this proposal, Yahoo and Google, plus the social network site, have not immediately responded to these calls to action. Facebook has over 25 million users in India and Google over 100 million. At the meeting one of these companies’ executives said if there’s a law they can follow up on it but that they could not be responsible for deciding the legality of shared content.
Other countries have also considered Internet censorship, including the United States, United Kingdom, Egypt, and Syria. India is the first to jump into action though. Ritesh, Singh, an engineering student at the India Institute of Technology, has started up a petition on change.org to put an end to this violation of speech rights.