This refers to the editorial “What to do about internet content?” (Dec. 9). It is true that much of the objectionable material spreads through social networking sites. Kapil Sibal is right in saying that such content should be blocked. But is it right to constitute a regulating body? If ‘yes,' should it be under the government's control? People are no longer citizens of any one country. They are netizens. A person in any part of the world has easy access to happenings in other parts of the world. A man in the U.S. can comment on ‘policy paralysis' in India and we can share our views on ‘Occupy Wall Street.' Geographical barriers have disappeared with the emergence of the internet.
Freedom is always misused by some. Cyber crimes, morphing of pictures of celebrities, sex scandals, abusive content targeted at a group, country or religion are some instances of misuse. A regulating mechanism may be in order. But if it is brought under government control, people will get the impression that their freedom is being curtailed. The regulating body should be independent.
This is not the first time that the UPA government has come up with the idea of censoring content on the internet. RIM, which provides Blackberry services in India, was embroiled in a similar row over access to encrypted email and instant message services. The government was taken aback this summer by the anti-corruption campaign that multiplied on Facebook and Twitter, drawing tens of thousands of people to the streets. Social network screening is not just pointless, it is bad policy. Individuals, corporates or countries, all have justified needs for secrecy. Offensive comments, however awful, should not give the state the right to override everyone's legitimate needs for privacy.
Although Mr. Sibal's initiative cannot be dismissed as unnecessary, the timing is suspect. His call to internet intermediaries to remove content that offend Indian sensibilities is bound to upset young internet users who see the move as an encroachment into their freedom of expression. The burgeoning urban middle class, whom Rahul Gandhi is trying hard to lure, will surely be alienated from the Congress fold.
Prathit Charan Misra,
The right to freedom is not absolute in any country, especially when it is in conflict with others' values. Mr. Sibal's call to internet intermediaries to do away with inflammatory content should be given a serious thought.
Ramesh Raju Katta,
I am reminded of the observation by Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court: “if the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read, what books he may watch.” The right to freedom allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint.