Earlier Kapil Sibal mooted the idea of cyber censorship when he asked Facebook/Twitter to screen content. Ravi Shankar Prasad is moving in a similar direction

Birds of a Feather Looking to Control the Internet?ravi shankar prasad kapil sibal PRASAD, SIBAL & CYBER CENSORSHIP

  1. When Kapil Sibal was the Minister for Communications and Information Technology he had frequently come under fire for his attempts at curbing internet freedoms of citizens. It is well known that Facebook and Twitter had been asked to screen user generated content before letting it be published. So the concept of cyber censorship is certainly not new to us.
  2. Various reasons are proffered as an excuse for internet censorship and the circumscribing of personal liberties. Firstly of course the old reason of protecting the religious sentiments of people is put forward. Filtering pornographic material is another reason offered. Then there is the controlling of user generated content and controlling our freedom of speech. This takes away not only personal freedoms but also removes the onus upon people to act responsibly.
  3. It was expected that such government interference and curbs upon personal liberties would not be as bad with the change in government. This was not to be however. Sibal’s successor as the communications and IT minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad seems to have views that are as regressive and against personal liberties.
  4. One recent example of censorship is the blocking of TV channel Comedy Central. The channel has been blocked for 6 days because apparently “obscene and vulgar” programmes were being broadcast on the channel. In the past FTV (Fashion TV) was slapped with a suspension because of a ramp show featuring topless models and skimpily clad models.
  5. We now have to contemplate a China-like or a Pakistan-like situation where various types of contents are blocked for political or religious reasons. If YouTube is blocked in Pakistan because of possible blasphemy,Chinese internet censorship is possibly the most stringent in the world.
  6. Dismayingly, India is on the list of countries declared to be “Enemies of the Internet” by the Reporters Without Borders organisation. This is because of the access that the government has to electronic communications in real time. The Central Monitoring System, developed by the Centre for Development of Telematics is thought to be involved in all sorts of snooping, filtering and censorship, most of which the citizens of India do not even know about. (Source)
  7. We are now being told that the government of India is planning to put a web filter into place. Ravi Shankar Prasad along with others recently held a meeting at the Department of Electronics and Information Technology to discuss the implementation of the filter. When the issue of likely fallouts such as the blocking of legitimate concern was raised, Prasad countered this with – “larger issue of respecting cultural values of the country and sentiments of the Indian society need to be considered and all possible ways and means may have to be devised in this context.” (Source)
  8. So it would seem that nothing at all has changed among the powers that be – we Indians still have to be protected from ourselves. We still need to be told that is OK to watch.consume and what is not; clearly we cannot be trusted to make these decisions or to act responsibly.

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