New Delhi: The government and top Internet firms including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo appear headed for a faceoff on the issue of offensive content on social media.
According to reports, the government has conveyed to these companies that they would have to screen derogatory, defamatory and inflammatory content on their websites targeting religious and political leaders like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
At a meeting with representatives of Internet firms, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal told them to find a way to ensure that such material is not carried as the same was perceived to be provocative and insensitive to the feelings of various communities. Some of the content was even viewed as insulting and obscene, the executives were told.
Newspaper reports said during the meeting, Sibal even showed several offensive pictures of Sonia Gandhi uploaded on a Facebook page.
However, the minister received no assurance from the officials on blanket screening of all content on their websites. The only commitment officials from these firms are reported to have made is that they would look into any specific complaint that was brought to their notice.
The government has meanwhile denied it as a move to censor social networking websites. At the same time, said highly-placed government sources, the Internet companies should be "sensitive about community standards in India and it is their responsibility to find solutions to the problem".
Reports said the companies’ response and a reported call from the US embassy expressing displeasure over the Indian move have upset the Telecom Minister.
If reports are to be believed, the issue was first taken up with Internet firms almost three months ago but so far no there has been no positive response on screening the content.