India demands Facebook and Google to censor content

08/12/2011

India has demanded that Internet sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google to screen and remove offensive content about religious figures and political leaders as soon as they learn about it. The government has asked the sites to remove material that might "offend Indian sensibilities", sparking a barrage of criticism from internet users in the the world’s largest democracy.

Kapil Sibal, the telecoms and information technology minister, on Tuesday confirmed he had met executives from the four companies to ask them to screen content, but no agreement had been reached.

Sibal said the Indian government "does not believe in interfering in the freedom of the press" but some of the images and statements on social media sites risked fanning tensions in India, which has a long history of communal violence. The minister cited one image of pigs running through the holy Muslim city of Mecca.

In a statement, Facebook said that "any content that violates [its] terms" would be removed and that the company would continue to engage with the Indian government on the issue.

India now has 100 million internet users, less than a tenth of the country's population of 1.2 billion but the third highest total behind China and the US. Within three years that number will treble, according to some predictions.

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