India presses web firms to pre-censor posts

Dylan Bushell-Embling
06 Dec 2011

India's telecom minister is reportedly leaning on web giants including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, in a bid to have them pre-censor their respective web services for disparaging content.

Acting telecom minister Kapil Sibal has held a meeting with officials from the companies to ask them to censor disparaging or defamatory content about people including party officials, New York Timesreported.

Citing unnamed IT industry executives, the Times said Sibal is pressing internet companies to pre-screen material posted from India, and to use human rather than computer monitoring.

But the internet companies have resisted the request, citing the obvious infeasibility of monitoring such a large volume of content, the sources said, adding that they should not be tasked with deciding what is or is not defamatory content.

According to the report, the government also plans to set up its own unit to monitor online content, under the oversight of the director general of India's cybersecurity watchdog.

This is not the first time the Indian government has put pressure on international ICT companies to implement special monitoring arrangements for the Indian market.

Last year, the government threatened to impose restrictions - including a possible ban - on companies including RIM and Skype, unless they took steps to enable monitoring of messages sent via Skype and BlackBerry handsets by Indian security forces.

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