The Indian government has come down hard on social networking websites and asked them to remove provocative and objectionable content in the wake of the exodus of the North East Indians from various states. Google and Facebook have already extended co-operation to the Indian government in removing the content that could incite violence. Twitter has also followed the suit by removing as many as six accounts having resemblance to the Prime Minister Office's official account. The accounts have been closed after finding objectionable content on these.
According to reports, the PMO had asked the Cyber Security Cell of the Department of Information and Technology to block these accounts. Earlier, the Indian government had warned Twitter of legal actions if it did not comply with the government demand to remove/censor objectionable content. It was speculated that the micro blogging site may fail to comply with the demand due to the huge number of tweets and retweets taking place on the website.
It may be noted here that Twitter's policy bars users from having parody accounts. The site has previously shut down various fake accounts. Twitter rules say, “You may not impersonate others through the Twitter service in a manner that does or is intended to mislead, confuse, or deceive others.”
The government is reportedly also thinking about seeking help from the U.S. government in curbing such websites having hate content, including morphed pictures and messages.
Meanwhile, Facebook has agreed to remove objectionable content. "Facebook will remove content which breaches our terms as set out in our statement of rights and responsibilities. Content or individuals can be removed from Facebook for a variety of reasons, including issuing direct calls for violence or perpetuating hate speech," the company spokesperson is quoted as saying.
"We have received requests from Indian authorities and agencies and are working through those requests and responding to the agencies. We encourage people to continue to use our tools to report content they are concerned about so that we can investigate and take action fast," he added.
Search engine giant Google, which provides services such as YouTube and Orkut, has also agreed to work closely with the Indian government. "We understand the gravity of the situation... and continue to work closely with relevant authorities,” says the company.
Earlier, the social networking websites came under the government scanner after reports of circulation of provocative messages on these sites that led to mass exodus of the people hailing from the north eastern states of the country. The government has already imposed a ban on bulk SMSes and MMSes, which bars subscribers from sending more than five messages (not more than 25KB of data) in a day users. More than 200 websites have also been blocked/banned so far.
It's not the first time when the Indian government and social networking companies have found themselves at loggerheads over the web censorship issue. Previously, the sites have already been dragged to the courts for hosting objectionable content. The Internet companies, however, opposed the government demand to monitor the content as breached the right to freedom of expression.