Not long after the Prime Minister’s Office complained to Twitter about objectionable content on six accounts resembling the PMO’s official account, the social networking behemoth promised to cooperate. It reportedly agreed to ‘actively review’ the request and ‘locate the unlawful content and the specific unlawful tweet.’ A press release also referred to India being important to the company, which is why it would ‘like to have clearer communication in these matters in future.’
Yesterday, an enterprising soul put together a graphical representation analysing the list of sites blocked for hosting content that was referred to as communal. 33 per cent of entries referred to Facebook, 27.8 per cent to YouTube, 9.7 per cent to Twitter, 3.6 per cent to Blogspot and 2.6 per cent to Wordpress. The remaining 23.3 per cent of the pie was taken up by everything from Al Jazeera.com and Defence.pk to Wikipedia.org, CentreRight.in and JihadWatch.org.
In December 2011, following a furore over his statement on content monitoring online, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said the government had no intention of “interfering” with social media, adding that its plan to evolve guidelines did not amount to restriction or regulation.
While the Prime Minister’s Office does have a legitimate request — fake accounts have, after all, been used to confound fans of celebrities the world over — what we find particularly worrying is how quickly our government rushes to ban anything it thinks of as potentially communal. Instead of doing the sensible thing, which is making sure its account is verified, recognised and publicised as such, while sensitizing us to the perils of communalism, it chooses instead to jump the gun and ban anyone who says things it does not believe in.
To stop someone from saying what the government thinks is different from its opinion is the first step towards a curtailing of our fundamental rights.