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Facebook, Google Argue Against Web Censorship In India 160

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the but-it's-unpossible-sir dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Facebook and Google told the Delhi High Court today they cannot block offensive content that appears on their services. The two Internet giants are among 21 companies that have been asked to develop a mechanism to block objectionable material in India, and the Indian government has given the green light for their prosecution. Although India is democratic (in fact, it's the world's largest democracy), many fear the country will resort to censorship."
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Facebook, Google Argue Against Web Censorship In India

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  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:24AM (#38721566)

    Should be made to shut up.

    • by kheldan (1460303) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:32AM (#38721584) Journal
      No. People are entitled to their opinions, however ignorant they might be. Ignoring their opinions, on the other hand, is perfectly OK. ;-)
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rubycodez (864176)
        NO, we're talking about people in government. The should be MADE to shut up.
    • by symbolset (646467) * on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:49AM (#38721652) Homepage Journal

      I believe in freedom of speech. If some individual wants to stand up in public and say that he supports depriving every citizen of free speech and due process of law to help save the profitability of a 90 year old mouse cartoon - then I will defend his right to do that.

      For an elected representative to not only do that - but to sponsor or support a bill which does that also - that's a different thing. That's a failure of citizenship, a neglect of your civic duty. These are essential liberties our nation was founded to protect. Such a representative should be removed from office as swiftly as the democratic process will allow, as he's a threat to the security of the Republic and the liberty of its People.

      There is no Mulligan on this one, no middle ground. Either you are FOR freedom of speech and due process of law forever and always, or you're NOT.

      • But there should be a mulligan.

        Everybody in his/her district should get two swings at him/her.

      • by unity100 (970058)

        I believe in freedom of speech. If some individual wants to stand up in public and say that he supports depriving every citizen of free speech and due process of law to help save the profitability of a 90 year old mouse cartoon - then I will defend his right to do that.

        and then that individual will find/brainwash others like him, increase in numbers, become an economical/political power, and then really shut you up. democratically. all that will end up happening will be the irony of letting democracy be destroyed 'through democracy'.

        that is what most of the islamist groups that are dubbed as 'mild islamist' by the west are doing by the way.

        http://www.meforum.org/2045/fethullah-gulens-grand-ambition [meforum.org]

    • by flyneye (84093)

      If you made them to shut up, one wold not ROFL and lose their ass in the process.
      As the goal of most internetizens is to lose several pounds off their backside, this should not be taken for granted.
      Governments exist for many reasons, entertainment being the most polished of these.
      What could be more entertaining than a person in a high position spewing the most absurd , ill-conceived suggestions to a technologist so far above his station he seems like a retarded janitor? How about a parliment/congress/senate

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      That's what Anonymous did when they still had a goal to fight for.

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:30AM (#38721580) Journal
    We here in the U.S. know that our politicians aren't in the least bit technologically savvy (yes, I'm painting with a broad brush when I say that). Should I be surprised or comforted to know that politicians in any number of countries are also, apparently, luddites? India doesn't seem to understand that what they're asking to do isn't technologically feasible. It would require a gigantic staff of people round-the-clock, judging each and every post and video before they're allowed to be seen by the general public. I understand that India doesn't have much of an issue with having enough workers when your population is one billion, but the cost to implement censorship on such a level? Astronomical. Seriously, if India is really that worried about "offensive" content, then maybe it's time for Google, Facebook, and whoever else they have an issue with, to just pull out and leave India to it's own devices. Or, maybe, the Indian government can get a grip and realize that their citizens aren't all little children needing a Big Brother to protect them from the entire world. The world is too small for nations to be so xenophobic, unless they want to wall themselves in like China and North Korea (and I'm sure there are other examples).
    • by Skapare (16644) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:44AM (#38721642) Homepage

      No surprise. Politicians are not people that have a passion for creativity (from art to innovation). They are people that have a passion for manipulating and controlling others (and school board members are wanna-be-politicians that failed at manipulating and controlling adults).

      The problem with pulling out of India is that, eventually, the issue will be resolved. By then, other companies will have taken over in place of Google, Facebook, etc. There is a distinct possibility this action is being done by the government for the purpose of allowing some unknown government "patron" (e.g. bribery) to be given this opportunity to move in on Google and Facebook (not that I would mind that).

      These kinds of attacks (not specifically this exact kind) by many government around the world seem to be happening for one reason or another. Maybe they just resent the fact that the internet was not created by them?

      BTW, you forgot Myanmar in that list.

      • The problem with pulling out of India is that, eventually, the issue will be resolved. By then, other companies will have taken over in place of Google, Facebook, etc.

        Isn't it prudent to pull out of India if the costs (financial and freedom) to continue doing business there are so dire? Who cares if they can't show ads to those people who are being censored? Once the content police are done polishing the content of the entire internet they'll start telling Google, FB, etc what ads they can sell and how they should look, etc.

    • by Rennt (582550) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:10AM (#38721744)

      The world is too small for nations to be so xenophobic, unless they want to wall themselves in like China and North Korea (and I'm sure there are other examples).

      Like the United States of America?

      Okay, okay, that was rather trollish. But ALL government seeks increased control, it's just the nature of the beast. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you are safe. "Land of the Free" rings pretty hollow these days.

      • Land of the free-est perhaps?
        • by laird (2705) <lairdp@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:30AM (#38721844) Journal

          "Land of the free-est perhaps?"

          You need to travel more. Since 9/11 the US government is much more heavy-handed than the governments of most other countries, and social mobility here (i.e. you can work hard and succeed) is less than elsewhere. So while we like to think of ourselves as free men on the rugged frontier, the reality has changed.

          • by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:42AM (#38721900)
            American constitution atleast guarantees free speech with virtually no restrictions applied I believe
            Ours doesnt even do that
            • by grmoc (57943)

              The Constitution is a wonderful document, but it doesn't guarantee anything. It specifies something.
              The Gov't is supposed to follow the specification, at which point we have a guarantee.

              Wish it were so.

            • by laird (2705) <lairdp@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @03:42AM (#38722124) Journal

              "American constitution atleast guarantees free speech with virtually no restrictions applied I believe"

              That's long gone. As an extreme example, look at how for the last several elections' political conventions all protesters were forced into "free speech zones" out of site of the convention attendees and the press (i.e. you have free speech, but only where nobody can hear you). And the police arrested thousands of people to get them off the streets, for the same reason. Of course, all of those people were then released, because they hadn't broken any laws, but only after the conventions were over and the press was gone.

              I'm not saying that the US is the most restrictive country - there are some that are much worse - but the constitutional rights have been heavily cut back in the last decade. Strangely, we had much stronger respect for civil rights when we were fighting the UK, the most powerful empire on the planet, than we do now, fighting a small number of desperate terrorists. George Washington, for example, expressly forbade torturing captured British soldiers, even though the British tortured captured American soldiers.

              "In 1776," wrote historian David Hackett Fischer in "Washington's Crossing," "American leaders believed it was not enough to win the war. They also had to win in a way that was consistent with the values of their society and the principles of their cause. One of their greatest achievements was to manage the war in a manner that was true to the expanding humanitarian ideals of the American Revolution."

              This commitment to our principles was how we won the war against a much larger, more powerful empire. Everywhere they went, pillaging, torturing and killing, they created more opposition. Or, as one of their soldiers wrong "Wherever our armies have marched, wherever they have encamped, every species of barbarity has been executed. We planted an irrevocable hatred wherever we went, which neither time nor measure will be able to eradicate."

              Our modern leaders have less foresight. But then, I'm sure that the British in 1776 thought that they were right, too.

              Rather than me quote the whole thing, go read it http://www.commondreams.org/views05/1217-30.htm [commondreams.org].

    • I really wish people who've obviously been to neither place would quit lumping together China and North Korea without even thinking about it.

    • But what do you do when a majority of the citizens ASK the govt.(by rioting and destroying public property ) to be a "Big Brother" and make sure only U rated content is available everywhere: books,news,TV,Internet,etc?
      • an extremely small minority of the people ever resort to rioting to make sure only U rated content is available. any educated, sensible person is very unlikely to hold such an opinion. also, fuck them. the constitution of india guarantees me free speech. if you're gonna start censoring stuff on the web, you're in violation of the constitution itself.

    • by Nyder (754090) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:27AM (#38721830) Journal

      We here in the U.S. know that our politicians aren't in the least bit technologically savvy (yes, I'm painting with a broad brush when I say that)....

      That is an excuse.

      If you are a politician it's your job to be familiar with issues that face your constituents. Not familiar with technology, get learning.

      If I can't use the ignorance as an excuse to get out of trouble when I break a law, then the politicians damn well better get familiar with the issues they are voting on, if not, that is a big failure on their part and even a bigger failure on the people voting for that person.

       

      • by Jawnn (445279)
        Correct. The problem is that there is no individual or group paying to educate the ignorant lawmakers on the "real" issues. RIAA, MPAA, et al, on the other hand, are lavishing money on the Senators, Congressmen, and their staffs to make certain that they "understand".
    • imo, this is a political gimmick before elections and the government wants to ensure social media be capped against any campaigns against itself. Other governments have tried to 'ban' specific websites, but netizens can subvert this lock down through different measures. What these uneducated lawmakers do not realize is that banning few websites would only incite resentment and bring about more immoral content into the cyberspace.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I agree it isn't technologically feasible, but anyone in India have the right to file a case in court. But don't worry, the pace at which judgements are delivered in India, human would have abandoned the mother earth and we all would be governed by the Galactic Empire laws. :P Also I don't think Indian govt. has any wish to create the gr8 wall of India. But things are different here, you can publish a cartoon in Europe, burn some book in US, but in India, it would mean communal riots, and millions dead, so
  • With population over 1 billion people, it makes me wonder what kind of democracy is actually applied in that country. Even winning an election 51 to 49 (supposed it works that way over there too), it would leave over 500 million dissatisfied...
    • by exomondo (1725132) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:34AM (#38721596)
      What really makes me wonder what they are thinking is when they suggest blocking of 'offensive' content, as though that's not a subjective term.
      • by Idbar (1034346)
        And what makes me wonder is that companies capable of identifying and taking down audio and video tracks (censoring on copyright basis), claim they cannot block posts? (not that I agree with any, but I really wonder why. I'm guessing you're spot on with subjectivity)
        • Because extracting the meaning from natural-language is a very difficult task. It is one of those things trivial for humans, very difficult for software.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      In many modern "democracies", you can with with 99% and then almost everyone is dissatisfied.
    • by Compaqt (1758360) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:37AM (#38721876) Homepage

      It makes no sense to throw in the line about India being the "world's largest democracy".

      All that that means is that India holds elections, and that it has a lot of people.

      It doesn't mean that (as in other 3rd world democracies):
      -India has a guarantee of freedom of speech like in the US
      -India has constitutional protections for "life, liberty, and property"
      -You can refuse to testify against yourself (an important protection against torture)
      -The government doesn't censor (plenty of stories on RIM, etc., on Slashdot re: that)

      The word you're looking for is "liberal democracy", i.e., a democracy in which an emphasis is placed on liberty.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Mod parent up. Democracy does not ensure liberty. It just ensures that people can vote. Liberal democracies on the other hand are built on a strong constitution that protects the liberty of the citizens in conjunction with independent courts. And I am sorry to say that most liberal democracies are being eroded to just being democracies.

      • -The government doesn't censor (plenty of stories on RIM, etc., on Slashdot re: that)

        there was no censorship in the rim case, it was a breach of privacy, allowing the government to intercept bbm messages, etc.

    • Democracy should not be "winner takes all" if you win with a 51% majority, you should take into account that the 49% have to be accounted for in your policies and not gloated over and made to regret voting against you. You are elected by 51% as the leader of all.

      If as in the US, the parties are so evenly split, then the message should be clear, the populace as a whole wants neither extreme and therefor a middle ground must be reached. Abortion rights but with a strict process. Socialized health care but a s

  • by webanish (1045264) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:32AM (#38721586) Journal
    An analysis here [firstpost.com] suggests that the target of Internet censorship was against political blasphemy rather than any generic web censorship. Its worse than a state trying to censor the web as consistent with their national policies; in this case the 'ruling government' is molding laws as it sees fit to its political advantages. Only one of the so called complaints by the ministers was deemed a national security threat.
    • by Aardpig (622459)
      I imagine the censorship will also encompass historical/nationalistic blasphemy -- there is a very strong ultra-nationalist movement in India, which seeks to recast (pardon the pun) the country's history as a mythic, self-serving narrative.
    • Damn right, This is a kind of knee jerk reaction from the government after the recent agitations against government, which used the social media for coordination. The GOI does not want a repeat of bad press against it as was the case in the 'India Against Corruption' movement recently. The offending gestures made against different religions is a mere hogwash.
    • this is true. this thing is all about one idiotic (and corrupt) minister (Kapil Sibal), trying to control online media to prevent people from criticizing the prime minister and others in the government. nothing to do with 'offensive' content.

  • by mc6809e (214243) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:38AM (#38721614)

    Why does anyone still believe that democracy means freedom?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @01:43AM (#38721634)

      Why does anyone still believe democracy means democracy?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I don't like this new system where money means speech. People with more money have more to say.
        • by Jawnn (445279)

          I don't like this new system where money means speech. People with more money have more to say.

          It is hardly "new". What is (relatively) new is how emboldened the monied interests have become in how they wield that influence. The Citizens United decision, of course, has had much to do with this, but it has always been possible to buy influence in Washington.
          I rather suspect that the driver behind this dramatic increase in political spending is a response to the Internet. Controlling the flow of information used to be much easier when there were no media anywhere near as accessible.

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:10AM (#38721740) Journal

    ... the reason why the United States of America (may) remain the most powerful, prosperous country* in the world isn't because we aren't the best or most efficient or smartest.

    It's because (it seems) invariably our competitors screw up in a big way. With China it's when their authoritarian government can't keep the lid on their repressed people, with India it's because their chaotic government can't promote effective policies. So let's hope that America's creatively destructive democracy hasn't wounded itself too much (thanks Bush) and will regain its balance. (Actually, hoping that the U.S. will outcompete China, a country 4x its population, is probably a bit much. How about a close second?).

    As I've gotten (much) older, I'm wondering if I see a personal corrolary to this; I've seen people do well not because they've had spectacular successes but because they've managed to avoided catastrophic failures. Sort of like the tortoise and the hare I guess.

    * prosperous BIG country; I know Switzerland, Singapore and Qatar are richer on a per capita basis but they don't have nukes. Or Facebook.

    • by nzac (1822298)

      ... the reason why the United States of America (may) remain the most powerful, prosperous country* in the world isn't because we aren't the best or most efficient or smartest.

      .....

      As I've gotten (much) older, I'm wondering if I see a personal corrolary to this; I've seen people do well not because they've had spectacular successes but because they've managed to avoided catastrophic failures. Sort of like the tortoise and the hare I guess.

      Come on, the reason the US is prosperous is due to adequate leadership and coming out of both world wars far better off than any of the pre-war powers.

      • by wisebabo (638845)

        Good point but we've seen other competitors seem to begin to challenge American dominance (Japan, now Europe) and then something messes up. Looking at this from a very long perspective, one could say that the world wars (at least the second one) was a very catastrophic failure on the part of Germany/Japan due to their overly authoritarian government (I'm winging it here, I'm not a historian).

        But I could be wrong! So we'll see what happens with China, I've heard their leadership described as "the Harvard A

        • by Alex Belits (437) *

          India just looks too dysfunctional.

          India made a mistake on trying to build an economy by growing production of things that are completely worthless in India and depend on foreign consumers/clients -- all the outsourcing crap, call centers, etc. That's pseudo-economy, it is colonial in nature, it encourages complete indifference to the results of work, and inevitably results in fraud.

          As far as I know, India does have actual economy, however to develop it, they have to kill the parasitic pseudo-economy that sucks resources from it and produces

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          China does appear to have a more competent government than the US, FWIW. There do seem to be some rising tensions there, but if the govt there is smart they'll be able to relieve those tensions without things exploding. The fact that they have a rapidly-growing middle class and rising prosperity will probably keep most of them happy; people don't care that much about govt misdeeds when things are good overall, esp. if they're getting better (and in China, they have been; just look at where they were 30 ye

        • by nzac (1822298)

          Looking at this from a very long perspective, one could say that the world wars (at least the second one) was a very catastrophic failure on the part of Germany/Japan due to their overly authoritarian government (I'm winging it here, I'm not a historian).

          Neither lost because of an authoritarian government but i guess the non-authoritarian governments (and the USSR) ended up out numbering and isolating them.

          The Media has said Counties have challenged the US their lead is still massive.

          Have a look at what the authoritarian Communist government of China has archived since it got power they started with a pretty poor situation.

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          I'd say you are right about WW2. In WW1 everybody had relatively authoritarian governments and there was a much greater sense of nationalism/etc back then. In the middle ages if one king called the daughter of another king ugly ten-thousand serfs would die in a few battles and life would move on. WW1 was really just a more modern extension of that, and it wasn't until it was ending that people realized just how insane it was. The thugs that won blamed the thugs that lost for the war, setting the stage f

      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Come on, the reason the US is prosperous is due to adequate leadership and coming out of both world wars far better off than any of the pre-war powers.

        Certainly true, but at least in the case of WW1 you could argue that those other pre-war powers made catastrophic failures. In the case of WW2 you could argue that for Germany, but the other countries didn't seek that war out.

        WW1 was basically the last old-European war, fought with much more modern technology. Europe has a long history of various families (today we'd nearly call them warlords) with concentrated power getting into turf wars for whatever reason, and then a bunch of people die over a few yea

    • Remember the story about the three bears and their porridge? (one was too hot, the other too cold...)

      Well the only countries large enough to challenge the U.S. are the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China). So in the spirit of the three bears...

      China's government is too authoritarian
      India's government isn't authoritarian enough
      Brazil's government/society isn't focused enough on the future (education)
      and Russia's government is too corrupt and they're facing one hell of a demographic problem maybe because

      • by ThiagoHP (910442)

        Brazil's government/society isn't focused enough on the future (education)

        As a Brazilian, unfortunately I need to agree with you. Our education system is improving, but too slowly for the problems and neglect we've had. On the other hand, many people who didn't valued education in the past has been valuing it now, due to the economic growth and the demand for more specialized and educated labor.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Economy is not a zero-sum game, if everyone else loses you are still not guaranteed to win. Just because you have the strongest economy doesn't mean you couldn't be better off in a world where you cooperate with others even at the cost of losing said leadership. Also, until China has 4x the GDP of America the average American citizen is still better off.

  • Control of content (Score:3, Insightful)

    by singlevalley (1368965) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @02:33AM (#38721858)
    It is a sensitive time in indian politics, the new generation (kids) of the current politicians are all set to make their splash into active politics. And if there is free press, then their family scams will start haunting them as well. so, in order to neutralize this, the current government wants to muzzle the free press and internet. Follow the fate of the public lokpal bill to understand what i mean. Of course, that is just my opinion, and i could be wrong.
  • Since the court said that Google/FB/others must filter their content or be blocked, these sites should go along with the latter option and block all requests coming from India. It shouldn't take long for India to be clamouring to be let back in and offering that judge's head on a platter as a peace offering.

  • Just plug in "India" instead of "Canada" or "United States" or "America" in any of a bazillion opinion pieces on censorship posted to slashdot over the years.

    i.e. Just search it.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      India's legal system is based on the UK-British system, the same as Canada's, the same as every Commonwealth Country I know of.

      The same arguments apply as to why "Censorship is bad, m'kay?"

  • I'm all for it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Leo Sasquatch (977162) on Tuesday January 17, 2012 @04:49AM (#38722380)
    Just as soon as we get a cast-iron definition of 'obscene' or even 'offensive' that applies to everything correctly for everyone.

    It's okay, I'll wait...

    Because, of course, language is never going to modify itself to route round censorship. No-one has ever invented entire new sub-tongues like polari, or thieves' cant to discuss dangerous or illegal subjects in plain sight without detection.

    I wish these idiots nothing but the best with their endless game of Whac-a-Mole (TM).
  • With this move the Indian government will deal a huge blow to the country's IT sector, the only thing that could save them from poverty.

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