Dear Mr. Sibal
I am not a lawyer. I am not in politics nor am I in position of power like you. I am not a cyber specialist. I am just a simple citizen, an educator who exhorts my students to think for themselves, have an opinion and make sure that they express it.
My pet peeve over the last few days has been you. First when I read this report in the India blog of New York Times through, you guessed it right, a Facebook link, on the 5th of December 2011, http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/05/india-asks-google-facebook-others-to-screen-user-content/I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. (Our Indian media caught up a little late!) I can understand if monarchies & autocracies demand this. But a demand of this nature from a legal luminary-cum-elected-representative (Aside: – the board to which I belong to was under your care – and you made so many radical changes there!) from the world’s largest democracy was far too much to digest. And that too at a time when social media is playing a vital role in engineering change in many countries globally; and when young and old are equally members of such online communities that foster a sense of camaraderie and oneness in them.
Why do you want Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to screen content? What kind of content are you particularly keen on removing? Anything that is anti-government or anti-congress? With millions of web users logging in and out, posting anything from tweets to status updates, to photographs to videos, writing blogs to discussing in webinars, how on earth are they going to monitor that? Besides, I fiercely value my freedom of speech. As long as I am not using objectionable language and graphics, why should anybody screen the content that I post?
I have three blogs. One question that I had to answer before I started them was whether it has adult content. I could set up one only when I said no to it. I write something disparaging about X / Y / Z, someone can always report me for abuse of the virtual space. Which means that there is a built in mechanism for social media to purge unwanted / abusive material, right? Why, then, did you want to be the super cop, ask for content censorship of kinds & earn the ire of millions of Indians in the cyber world? What is more shameful is that you are using this as a ruse and saying that by indulging in such free exchange of views & ideas, religious sensitivity will be exploited. Come on, Mr. Sibal, the internet is not a new thing now. If such instances gave rise to communal riots, India would have been in shreds by now. In fact, I have heard many a time that it is your tribe who engender communal issues and use it effectively in vote bank politics.
I am aware of the IT act. Section 66A is about punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc which is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine. Section 66E is for violation against privacy; 66F deals with punishment for indulging in cyber terrorism. Section 67 is about punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material. As a legal expert you know it all too well. And perhaps you know the loopholes too. Is that why you can’t invoke these sections against erring individuals? So how about plugging the loopholes instead of gagging us?
Mr. Sibal, common people like me have tolerated nonsense for very many years. A new found enthusiasm is coursing through our veins, thanks to our communities in the very same social media that you have targeted. India will not go the China way! Do read the writings on the wall!! Or you will not have any wall to write over!!!
An Awakened Citizen