Govt has no intention of interfering with social media: Sibal
After the furore over his statement on content monitoring on Internet, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal on Friday said the government has no intention of 'interfering' with the social media, nor does its plan to evolve guidelines amounting to restriction or regulation.
He said the industry should develop a set of guidelines for screening of objectionable content after it is uploaded.
"Whatever I have said in the press or during the interview does not amount to restriction or regulation. It is evolving a consensus that is acceptable to media. It is not my intent ever to interfere with social media in whatsoever form," Sibal told Karan Thapar on 'Devil's Advocate' programme on CNN-IBN.
"I wanted them (Internet companies) to form their own guidelines by their own standards. The intent from the government is that we want them to take the action," he added.
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Image: Union Minister Kapil Sibal
'There cannot be a pre-screening of content'
Sibal said he will meet Internet majors like Google and Facebook on December 15 for formulating guidelines for monitoring content on social media platforms and removal of objectionable content from websites.
"We will have a discussion, a round-table on 15 of this month. We will ask for suggestions. Those guidelines will be in the public domain," he said.
Addressing reporters on December 6, Sibal had said social websites need to ensure that uploading of derogatory material is stopped.
He had said if the social networking sites are not willing to cooperate with the government on stopping incendiary material, "then it is the duty of the government to think of steps that we need".
"There cannot be a pre-screening of content on the electronic media and social media. Can you pre-screen the content that appears on your own channel? It cannot be. It's madness for us to even ask for that. And we did not," Sibal said.
'Govt not in favour of censorship'
Maintaining that the government is not in favour of censorship, Sibal said he had met the company officials and asked them to formulate a set of guidelines.
"On September 5, we raised this issue and we circulated some of the content which was blasphemous. We said, start a dialogue and come back to us within four weeks. Then on October 3, because the material did not come to us, we wrote to them saying that let us meet up as quickly as possible, because you have to come up with certain solutions," Sibal said.
He added that the ministry wrote to the companies on October 13 again, but failed to get a response, following which the Department of Information Technology Secretary called a meeting on November 3 to resolve the issue.
Image: Activists in New Delhi protest against Kapil Sibal's remarks
'I wanted a solution, a dialogue with Internet companies'
"Then, on November 29, I called a meeting and I said three months have passed and you have yet to come up with some sort of a solution. I fixed December 5 as the date for final response," Sibal said.
However, the companies did not come up with any solution by that date either, he added. "On December 5, they threw up their hands and they said we cannot come up with any kind of solution on it and we will apply US community standards to you," Sibal said.
He said that he had asked the companies to remove content which is offensive as per their standards.
"I wanted a solution, a dialogue with them to come on the same platform as us and deal with this issue in a sensible, responsible manner," he added.