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Facebook Tells India It Won't Help Censor the Web 168

An anonymous reader writes "Indian Communications and IT minister Kapil Sibal yesterday announced a proposal to have technology companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and Twitter pre-screen user generated content so that community sentiments are not hurt. Social media platforms are being asked to censor whatever politicians deem objectionable and too offensive for the Internet. Sibal called a news conference when the story broke, and following it, Facebook responded to say that it can't help in the effort."
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Facebook Tells India It Won't Help Censor the Web

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  • Duh... (Score:5, Funny)

    by masternerdguy ( 2468142 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:37PM (#38294242)
    Of course not, censorship would hurt their business model. People need to share their dirt to sell it!
    • Re:Duh... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tharsman ( 1364603 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:58PM (#38294522)

      "In unrelated news, Facebook tells India it will grandly give them all secret profile information on any indian national no matter what country they live in, they may even give them a few non indians to sweeten the deal."

      • In unrelated news, Facebook tells India it will grandly give them all secret profile information on any indian national no matter what country they live in

        I had to go and check, but in this country at least, Facebook doesn't collect nationality information. Presumably, they don't think it's important for selling you stuff.

        The location you're posting from, where you went to school, etc, are only weak and very unreliable guides to nationality, citizenship, etc. If people followed them, then I've been Canadia

        • They collect hometown information. Unless you use a vague definition of the word, or decide to call hometown an adoptive town, you can get nationality with it.

          Also, most people dont travel that much during their childhoods so a combination of friends and elementary/middle school data can be enough to guess most people's nationality.

          Do not underestimate the accuracy of overly tracky websites.

          • They collect hometown information.

            Do they? So they do. What does mine say? Oh, it's the empty set. Maybe I should change it to match the "current location" field, whenever I update that. (Well, it is an editable field after all! Not a WORM field, as it plainly should be. Shows how important FB consider it to be.)

            I'm sure that they can deduce nationality information. Which is not the same as being told it. And it is prone to getting things wrong : they could well deduce from my associations etc that I'm cul

            • If you think advertisers don’t care about your nationality, I think you don’t know anyone in the field.

              Immigrants are heavily targeted by money transfer ad campaigns or international calling cards, under the statistically correct assumption that most wire money to their families heavily or plain simply call them extremely often. These services also tend to sometimes specialize to some countries, so just knowing you are an immigrant is not enough for agencies; they want to target immigrants from

              • If you think advertisers donâ(TM)t care about your nationality, I think you donâ(TM)t know anyone in the field.

                Fortunately you're right. Or, if I do know anyone in that field (most people I know from non-work environments, I don't ask what their jobs are. Why would one?) they're smart enough to realise that I'm likely to be very un-impressed. Conning people out of money they can't afford for things they don't need is not an honourable profession.

    • by defaria ( 741527 )
      Apparently free speech means nothing to you. But let me ask you this: Exactly how much do you pay for Facebook? Huh? Thought so. Geeze!
  • Simple (Score:5, Informative)

    by Toe, The ( 545098 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:37PM (#38294248)

    Facebook doesn't want to censor: they want free flow of as much information as possible. The more that's out there, the more data they have to mine and sell.

    • by arcite ( 661011 )
      The medium is the message.
      • I find this double thinking funny. If it would had been then everyone would had celebrated how brave and new Google is, but when it's Facebook it's obviously because they want money. People are sheep, but the ones thinking they're not such are just perfect example of ones...
    • Sort-of.

      They want it to flow to them. They only really care about /one/ of the exit pipes...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Facebook doesn't want to censor

      Facebook censors all the time. I've had my account arbitrarily terminated because I made an objectionable post. They refused to tell me which post they were referring to; only simply that I violated their ToS and that I had no recourse of appeal. I have no clue because I generally don't even push the envelope.

      I am not the only one who has had this story either.

      Facebook is very kafkaesque and they're more than happy to muzzle people arbitrarily.

  • PR Giveaway (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) <slashdot.uberm00@net> on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:38PM (#38294254) Homepage Journal

    It's in Facebook's best interest to say no anyway (since censoring comments would only make people want to leave and thus would reduce revenue at the additional cost of developer time), and by doing so they appear to be heroic. This was perhaps the easiest press release ever.

    • This. I bet they'd love if more 3rd-world countries with a small Internet user base would ask for censorship, so that they could pose heroically and say "NO little country, I will not censor, for I support freedom of speech!" while blocking TPB links.

      • Re:PR Giveaway (Score:5, Informative)

        by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @04:14PM (#38294702)

        Small Internet user base? Little country? Are we still discussing India?

        There are more Indians online than British people. India is 6th. CIA world factbook [] (and that's from 2009, I wouldn't be surprised if India is now ahead of Germany. Most Germans who want to be online are; that's not the case for India.)

        Let's have some respect for the world's largest democracy, please.

        • Let's have some respect for the world's largest democracy, please.

          They may be a democracy, but they're still fairly backward in several ways: far too religious, abortion of female fetuses [] and female "circumcision" (mutilation).

          • by xaxa ( 988988 )

            America is far too religious and practises male genital mutilation...

            India isn't the best democracy, and I didn't suggest that. I took exception to the GGP's disparaging remarks. It still is a democracy, and this proposal (law?) is being openly debated.

            • there's no law here that allows that kind of censorship. this guy (kapil sibal) has been quietly talking to google and facebook and asking them to censor whatever he says is objectionable. understandably, there's been widespread uproar. there's no debate because this is not something that was brought into parliament or anything.
              in fact, i read in some website that google said they'd be happy to censor content if there was a well-defined law.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:38PM (#38294256)

    I think it's interesting to see India asking for IT help.

    • Apparently what they want isn't on the script?

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      Has Kapil Sibal tried rebooting his Internet yet?

  • Well ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by lennier1 ( 264730 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:41PM (#38294314)

    If you want to filter something, block his campaign ads when it's time for re-election.

  • by Moheeheeko ( 1682914 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:42PM (#38294318)
    ...Facebook...doing something....good? Does not Compute.
    • Don't worry, they aren't doing this out of some mission to better mankind and stand up to oppression. They're doing it for their own profit: they need an uncensored environment to collect as much data as possible.
      • Of course. So? It's still a good thing for humanity.
      • They could still collect the data and just not display it to end-users, thus they'd still have the data to mine.
      • You have it wrong blocking content would cost millions and then open themselves to lawsuits from India because they didn't block enough. But ya it all comes down to money and not breaking any US laws while doing so.
    • Stopped clock, twice a day. You know the old adage I'm sure?

    • Well it helps that what he was asking for is impossible to impliment. The scope of what he is asking for is the same as asking that Google employees review every email that people send with GMail. Or that AT&T have employees listen in on all telephone conversations.
    • They just don't want to be held liable when their censorship settings are shown to be flimsy and easily bypassed.
    • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )

      Furthermore, I have censored my Ubuntu installation against Facebook, and all its data-collecting sites. From a previous discussion here, this is now my hosts list:

      # screw facebook 2011-07-31 SUN www.sta

  • Facebook (Score:3, Interesting)

    by arcite ( 661011 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:42PM (#38294322)
    They won't help censor the web because that would interfere with them spying on their users.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly! Censorship is a form of privacy, and Facebook doesn't do that.

  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:43PM (#38294346)
    would like to be in control of ALL the information you have available. the internet is a thorn in government's sides, right now the benefits of the internet outweighs the liabilities and when that changes you can bet the US Gov will pull the plugs (like shutting down ICANN's root servers) among other things it wont kill it completely but it will kill most of it and joe and jane sixpack wont be going to or whatever flavor of underground news and tinfoil hattery they like...

    war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength
    • The good news is that the strategy utterly failed to work out for Hosni Mubarak.

    • An increasing number of households, smart phones, and even newer model cars have WiFi transmission capabilities, so why can't we create ad-hoc mesh networks as a backup to the internet the government can control via backbones? As long as houses, phones, and cars have power there will always be a free internet. Confiscating all those is logistically impossible.

      Seems to me, that with the un-constitutional reactionary laws the 1% is trying to push through right now that we need to make this happen swiftly.

      • by Thing 1 ( 178996 )

        Confiscating all those is logistically impossible.

        Well, our government at one point confiscated "all" the gold. So, I wouldn't say it's impossible; it's actually far more likely, as the government has a list of all phone users thanks to the NSA boxes hidden in all but Qwest. Gold detectors? I think the next collection effort will have a far higher percentage of success. Not that I'm hoping for it to happen.

  • by zill ( 1690130 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:45PM (#38294366)
    Didn't Mr. Sibal suggest that they will use humans to screen the contents? []

    Here's my suggestion: tie him down to a chair and pry open his eyelids clockwatch orange style, and then have him screen youtube comments for 8 hours.
    • And he also wants to monitor Facebook posts, Imagine reading that drivel all day. I'd almost prefer youtube comments
  • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:46PM (#38294386)

    Wow, everyone's really quick to jump on them and claim it's because they have profit motive in having more data. I won't deny that, but there are other factors that are possibly more important.

    Human-scanning every single message would be nearly impossible. Even if they managed to handle the staffing problem, they couldn't afford it. And even if they could afford it, there's the ethical issues it presents.

    There are plenty of other reasons for them to decline.

    • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

      And all but one of them is tied to profit.

      If you think FB has ethics, you are deluded.

      • What are you joking? Do you know much overhead would be involved in scanning every message, post & status update for "questionable content"? That's a huge chunk of potential profit right there. Sure, ethics probably aren't a consideration (they probably value the good press for "freedom of speech" over the potential loss of indian FB users or something like that) but implementing some sort of post checker is a logistics nightmare they want nothing to do with.
    • Sure they could afford it they would just outsource it to the Indians themselves or they have cheap slave labor as well.
      • Opps ment Or China they have cheap slave labor as well I dont know where the word china went it was there when i posted it.
    • Human-scanning every single message would be nearly impossible. Even if they managed to handle the staffing problem, they couldn't afford it. And even if they could afford it, there's the ethical issues it presents.

      Reminds me of the Better Off Ted [] episode "Racial Sensitivity" where a glitch in the new automatic sensors controlling the building (lights, door, elevators, water-fountains, bathrooms) - that worked by measuring light reflected off faces/skin - didn't detect "black people"... Management didn't

    • Human-scanning every single message would be nearly impossible. Even if they managed to handle the staffing problem, they couldn't afford it.

      They could always just outsource it to India.

  • Dear India... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:47PM (#38294398) Journal
    Y'know what "hurts community sentiment" more than all the trolls in the world, no matter how socially malformed, photoshop adept, and equipped with free time equal only to their misanthropy?

    Your own bloody, medieval, sectarian clusterfucks... []

    How about you work on the "brutal violence in response to hurt feelings about whose invisible friend is better" problem and then worry about scary things on the internet?
    • Yep, religion rears it's ugly head, again.

      A much better answer is to ban any religion that thinks going out on the street and being violent is the right response to something they saw on a web page.

      Root of all evil...etc.

    • How about you work on the "brutal violence in response to hurt feelings about whose invisible friend is better" problem and then worry about scary things on the internet?

      I know that it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside to sneer at people who believe something you don't, but making fun of people who don't think the same way as you do simply makes you look childish, shallow and boorish. Now, I happen to agree with your basic premise that India should spend more time teaching people that violence isn't
      • by Jibekn ( 1975348 )
        No, I would be more insulting about it, when you kill another human, because of some fairy tale, your life should be ended, publicly, and very brutally being drawn out over days. I have no tolerance for humans who kill other humans for any reason, and torturing the guilty publicly is a very good way to discourage further incidents.

        Draconian over the top punishments, done publicly is the perfect deterrent, there's a reason theft in countries that lop your hand off have the lowest theft rates in the world,
        • I think you're missing my point, here. I have no objection to your rejection of sectarian violence, in fact, I agree with it. I do, however, suggest that you might want to express yourself in less rude terms. Your fairy tale is somebody else's Universal Truth, and your calling it a "fairy tale," or referring to an "invisible friend" is only going to antagonize them, making them even less likely to pay attention to your ideas.
          • by Jibekn ( 1975348 )
            No less antagonizing than some ignorant wretch telling me I cant be happy without Jesus, and that they're going to keep harping at me until I accept that.
            • So do what I do, ignore them. Or, if they're persistent, I tell them that my rabbi won't let me. Besides, why sink to their level?
        • by colesw ( 951825 )
          Well obviously you have some tolerance for humans to kill others, as you believe they should be killed, but not only killed but tortured first.
      • I know that it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling inside to sneer at people who believe something you don't...

        Whoa there. Sure, he's referring to gods as "invisible friends", and yes that's kinda sneerish.
        But you're skipping right over the part where he's specifically sneering at THE ONES WHO ARE KILLING EACH OTHER over rather trivial differences. So, while you have a point about respecting each other, getting in a huff about such a minor slight is kind of playing right into his argument.

        The fact that you're getting insulted over an insult to murderers is rather sad.

        • No, I'm not skipping that part, I'm agreeing with it. The only thing I object to is his rude way of referring to religious beliefs.

          The fact that you're getting insulted over an insult to murderers is rather sad.

          As it so happens, I'm not in the least bit insulted by his rudeness. I'm not the type of person he was talking about and I don't take offence from generic slurs that aren't directed at me. I commented on it both because I find that type of off-hand rudeness tiresome and because I thought that
  • by stating_the_obvious ( 1340413 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:48PM (#38294410)
    First, it's additional work... but more importantly, it's additional liability since you are now responsible for what gets posted...
  • by koan ( 80826 )

    This would create a lot of jobs, which to some people are more important than trolling the Inet with Photoshopped pictures of leaders and religious figures.

    • by ackthpt ( 218170 )

      This would create a lot of jobs, which to some people are more important than trolling the Inet with Photoshopped pictures of leaders and religious figures.

      Most likely jobs in India. Hmm. That's a really interesting scenario, if you think about where it could end up.

      • by koan ( 80826 )

        Yes I meant jobs for India as they need them even more than the West does.

  • ... but....

    Good on Facebook.


  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @03:57PM (#38294514) Homepage Journal

    They'll indvertantly have accumunated a lot of private info on Indian politicos and the State and accidently exposed it all through a defect in code, which will redirect all Indian FB users to pages of it, but for one day only, until they find the bug and fix it.

    So there :P

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Isn't FB self censoring, since you can choose your friends?

  • So when will facebook stop censoring the web in the US? For example, links to strikes and other labor rights activities are regularly blocked.
  • Sibal is asking companies to help him filter the Internet because the country has several religions and faiths. He argues what might seem humorous to someone can be really offensive to another and he wants to avoid further incidents of communities taking to the streets and vandalizing public property.

    Bear with me, I have a solution to propose for this, from the Bible, from a time when another large country in Asia faced a problem with the presence of several faiths and ethnicities and some were getting ready to take to the streets in violence.

    the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil. (Esther 8:11)

    It worked. When the Jews were granted the legal right to defend themselves, only idiots got violent against them, and they received a rough justice as a result, with little cost to the government.

    Just a suggestion. It's a lot better than taking away civil rights.

  • It is utterly impractical to think that you could pre-screen user-generated content. Facebook has, what, 800 million users. How many millions of screeners would you need to sift through all the potential content out there - even if were solely restricted to India? How do you keep all those screeners from going braindead reading through all that stuff? How do you keep them from gouging their eyes out with the inane horror of it all. And, most importantly, how do you decide what gets censored, and enforc
  • Article says won't but summary says can't.

    There is a world of difference between those two words.

    • by lgarner ( 694957 )
      Which article did you read? Normally I wouldn't ask, but given your post you must have read something.
  • That's very interesting....

    An evil thing Facebook won't do.

    Or is that just what they want us to think...?

    Conspiracy theorists, start your foiling!
  • This is very pointy-headed boss.
  • I imagine that Microsoft may be cooking some stew in the back ground which would help India. What a better way for them to gain market share in an area that they have struggled with!

    When you look at how Microsoft already filters content for users, is it that much of a leap?

  • He showed company executives derogatory images of the Prophet Mohammed as well as altered pictures of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi that appeared on their platforms. He argued these images would offend “any reasonable person.”

    Grow up is all I have to say. If you can't take a joke and little harsh humour then go find a rock and live under it, the rest of us will have a great time and party all night. The fact is to many people take offence to what aren't offensive situations. Just because you haven't grown up and matured to know the difference between what you think is offensive and what is actually offensive isn't my problem and it shouldn't be Facebook's, Google's or Microsoft's.

    A reasonable person will understand this a

  • Fuck you corrupted politicians.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    editing / censoring part makes them responsible for all the content. They lose their legal status

  • by dell623 ( 2021586 ) on Wednesday December 07, 2011 @06:04PM (#38296058)

    I wish I could be smug just laugh at India and its stupid corrupt politicians.

    Unfortunately this kind of hare brained ideas aren't limited to the third world.

    In Australia the filtering plan seems to be on hold for now, but you don't even need a slippery slope argument to know how batshit insane and scary the idea of a secret internet censorship blacklist is: []

    Or have we already forgotten the UK plan to censor social media during times of social unrest: []

    Think of how easily that could be used in the style of the Arab governments to cripple organised protests against the government.

    Or we can mock India for wanting to intercept and read Blackberry messages, and ignore the implications of legislation like the Patriot Act: []

    Or have we forgotten the domain seizures to try to block pirated content with no due legal process: []

    Even extending to attempts to block a Firefox add on: []

    Blocking sports streams when they still cannot find a way of offering pay per view streaming of major sports events over the internet, where your only way of viewing a couple of hours of sports content a week is to sign up for an expensive cable package that gives lots of stuff you will never watch and THEN purchase an extra expensive add on for the sports content. And the US government is protecting that business model by seizing domains with no legal notice or court enforced legal process.

    I would love to be able to just mock India, if we could afford to be that complacent...

  • Don't waste resources protecting people from "offending content". If people seek out stuff that offends them, they asked for it. If they get offended by regular newsfeeds, go complain to the provider, not the government. And stop reading newsfeeds that contain what they consider offending content.

    Under no circumstances does it make any sense that the government should impose censorship to protect the populace from "offending content". They might protect against subversive content but that doesn't seem to be

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.