India asks social networking sites to remove offensive content

India has asked social networking sites and internet companies to screen and remove content which is defamatory to religious and political leaders.

Communications Minister Kapil Sibal made the request to officials from Facebook, Google, YouTube and Yahoo in a meeting on Monday.

Mr Sibal showed them doctored photos of PM Manmohan Singh and Congress party president Sonia Gandhi on Facebook.

Social media censorship in india
Social media censorship

India has more than 100 million internet users.

The internet companies have not commented officially on the meeting.

The Hindustan Times quoted the companies as saying the large number of users meant broad action was impossible.

They have said in the past that they are unable to screen all the material but that they will look into any specific complaint that is raised with them.

Reports said Mr Sibal is particularly annoyed by the use of tampered images of Mrs Gandhi and Mr Singh on Facebook.

India has 28 million Facebook accounts.

The minister is reported to have warned the internet sites of “stern action” against firms that fail to act.

“These websites have been told to be more vigilant… and ensure that such objectionable matter is not used on the internet,” The Hindu newspaper quoted an official of the telecommunications department as saying.

“We have asked them to actively screen and filter all such material before they are uploaded,” he said.

Mr Sibal was quoted as saying that India did not want censorship but self-regulation.

Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers Association of India, told Associated Press that internet companies should be aware of national security issues.

“I am not favouring censorship – self-regulation is the best censorship available to our system [but] we should not do anything which should harm the peace of the country.”

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