The BJP is not averse to the idea of a mechanism to curb “offensive and objectionable” material on the social networking websites with the approval of Parliament.
In response to a specific question here, party Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha S.S. Ahluwalia said his party would support any “concrete measures” contemplated by the government to contain material on the internet which could hurt religious sentiments or were defamatory in nature.
On its own, the party has refrained from joining the debate sparked off by Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal on the need for a code of conduct to ensure that the global internet companies block ‘hate speech' on the social networking websites.
The move by Mr. Sibal two days ago to summon representatives of Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft to discuss measures to block objectionable content being posted on social networking sites led to some netizens taking strong objection to the initiative on the plea that it was an attempt to muzzle the freedom of expression.
The BJP spokesperson referred to a specific example of a picture in circulation on the net which hurt the religious sentiments of a community and said his party was opposed to posting of material that hurt religious or ethical sentiments or posting of morphed pictures.
“Nobody will approve of such a thing. Everybody will condemn it. But there should be concrete proposals. Nobody is saying there should be laws which strangulate freedom,” Mr. Ahluwalia said.
He also wondered why the Minister had not invited representative of You Tube to the meeting and said that was because he would have come to know that these sites had their own regulation (through filters).
Mr. Ahluwalia said the manner in which the Minister summoned representatives of the four companies and asked them to sign “on the dotted line” was wrong. “Mr. Sibal calling these four organisations and asking them to sign the paper is just like he told Ramdev to sign a paper (before Ramlila agitation).”
A senior BJP leader, while broadly endorsing the idea of a way to ensure that social networking sites are not misused to incite sections of society, maintained that it is difficult to prevent such content from getting on the sites of these social networks.
He said that despite filters put in place by the global internet companies it was impractical to control objectionable material before it was posted on these social networking sites owing to the high flow of postings.
There are at least two specific instances of senior BJP leaders of becoming victims of impersonation on the social networking sites. Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley has filed complaints against fake accounts in his name both on the twitter and on Facebook.