Friday, December 09, 2011

Content screening - an interesting thought but not fully viable

Off late, social networking sites are beaming with internet / social media censorship issue. Needless issue, I must say - at this point in time. Our communication minister has ruffled feathers off many internet addicts (including me). But the point is, we are too busy to read / understand what he actually has to say and we comprehend the way we want. We get influenced by the same social networking media again and make judgements! It's important we know why he has made such a statement.

Background of Kapil Sibal

I am not going to tell you about who Kapil Sibal is, his educational background etc. Let me just mention that Sibal is the same guy who has restored some sanity in our cut-throat educational system by introducing grade based ranking. Remember the days when a single mark defines whether you are the best or among the rest? Remember the days you have let your family down (apparently) because you couldn't rise up to their ever increasing standards? He has atleast tried to ensure the next generation doesn't suffer the same fate! I respect him for that. He took over the telecom ministry when it was in a complete mess (it still is). No one would have taken over such a huge monkey on their backs. This guy did it. And I understand the new Telecom policy will be drafted. I can't guarantee how effective that will be, but atleast he is giving his best shot! Kudos for that too!

What he actually wants?

Now to the point - this is what he actually wants: "screening of offensive content before it is actually posted". So, the key word is 'screening' and not 'censorship' as is (mis)quoted everywhere. The guy wants to remove derogatory content from Facebook / Twitter. Which, if you think about it, seems justified. No one has the right to defame anyone in the name of democracy!! If you don't like the person and wants the world to know, state facts and explain why you don't like him / her. Simple, isn't it?

Why is it an interesting idea?

This is where I believe many of you won't appreciate my thoughts. I am an Internet addict. I use Facebook and Twitter as and when I get the time. I am a blogger too who publishes 1-2 posts a week (based on time again). I know how effective social networking can be. However, I also know it can be used against a certain group / people / religion in a derogatory way. Which, by the way, I am fine with - coz they are not my relatives / people I know. What I am not fine with, is that the same tool has the capability to incite riots / hatred among the citizens! Our country has gone through a lot - Sikh riots, Babri Masjid demolition, Gujarat Riots, Terrorist attacks. Even though we are becoming more secular, we still have a special bond with our own type of people (same religion / language / community). We are Indians, yet we still are Maharashtrians / Punjabis / South Indians / Gujaratis, right?

My point is simple. I don't want any section of our society to develop hatred towards anyone else in our country. Who wants hatred? No one. Who promotes hatred? Almost everyone!! So, based on my arguments, am I wrong if I say I want my country to be culturally diverse and yet be united?

However, why can't there be a fool-proof implementation?

Now to the implementation aspect. I simply don't think this is possible! I mean, this is technically possible. Before posting, the system can review keywords in the message and if found objectionable, it will not allow the user to post it. But no company (like Google / Facebook / Twitter and the likes) will screen the content. Hey, these companies are all about users and what they want. Remember, when Google+ was launched, Facebook came with a total makeover by increasing security? 

What Mr. Sibal needs to understand is that the internet users aren't illiterate. They know what they are doing. Some go overboard. But most of us self-screen our content before posting. Congress has had its share of angry citizens now and is almost certain to lose in the next election. 

All in all, the idea is noble, implementation is not possible. Internet addicts, chill. I understand why we are vocal about it. But we need not worry. This will not happen in India. Even if it happens, the next government will overrule it anyways! For the Congress, this could just be a way to divert attention from other key issues - inflation / Lokpal / corruption / scandals. And isn't the Congress successful? We all are talking about it for the past 1 week and it's trending continuously on twitter!! I think we have given enough "footage" to this episode. Let us move on!! 

PS: I am not from any political party and am not defending the government decision. These are purely my views. Democracy, I say!


  1. Nicely written Binu, I think we all need to read news between lines. Your justification seems right. Some things need to be screened. I think to an extent things are screened on internet. Yeah, you are right, it wont happen in India.

    BTW, this news provided a subject for tweet for some days though:)

  2. Binu, way to go dude! I am really happy that you wrote for the argument and not against. Many have written against it and justified, however this calls for *respect*

    It's time you publicise your blog more.

  3. Good researched article.. totally agree with the point of view... the whole fdi and pre screening fiasco was just a tool used by the congress to keep the much burning issues of the countries aside...
    at the end of day its all about how the internet user sees the online content..self regulation is the only possible answer..
    a guy who knows to use a computer very well should know how to think as well..

    But i dont agree with the grading system though ;);)

  4. Thanks for presenting different thought on the topic. It was interesting and if we leave our biases aside, some kind of screening is required on the web. Though we always can decide what to access and what not, this would help.

  5. @Saru: Thanks for appreciating my point of view. We Indians are too judgmental now-a-days! We take everything at face value and make our own opinions on stuffs. We need to read more and analyze less :D

    @Chintan: Thanks yaar!! Even I read many posts (some of which were totally derogatory - which ironically justified Mr. Sibal's decision of screening). About publicizing my blog, I need to thank you again. :)

  6. A very good post depicting the other side of the coin. Yes the man has taken up challenges and done quite a bit but this monitoring is going a bit overboard.

  7. @Sourabh: You see, these are all political strategies, and we as educated masses of this country should know all this. Self regulation should be done and we all are responsible for this. Grading system is a huge boost for students. We don't want a child to commit suicide
    just because he got 99% and lost first rank by 1%!!

    @Aativas: You are right, we need to leave our biases aside and think logically. As mentioned, self screening is the way to go..

  8. @Arti: As on last week, I had the same point of view as yours. But if you look at what the so-called "educated internet users" do on the net - and the way they derogate people based on personal issues - I am convinced screening should happen. There are a bunch of bad fishes spoiling our blogging ocean.

  9. i am of the view that certain amount of screening could be welcomed.. but then that calls for a universal discussion right ! which is almost improbable ..well should agree to you that it cannot be implemented in our country !

  10. having watched his recent NDTV interview with Barkha, i could not place the outrage of people. he repeated many times over, censorship is not what he wanted or aimed. he said & cited some examples of "inflammatory,demeaning" content that triggered hate & rage of one community against the other.

    wonder how the words censorship & ban & what not got thrown at our faces & the resulting blog posts/FB msgs condemning it. most of us jumped the gun i guess

    anyways, be that as it may, agree that internet censorship - mild or severe - is still China's fav past-time, not India's. at best, it is a diversion tactic here as you pointed out.

    btw, the grading system though well intended & a step in the right direction , has actually become a big mess with all three parties severely frustrated - teachers, students & parents - because it is still grey. ineffective implementation makes all the difference in case of a good idea turning bad

  11. Very well written.. I do not know about this, but it is like here to I think.
    Democracy is the word:-)

    Thanks for your nice comment!

  12. @Spidernama: Thanks :)

    @Sujatha: The grading system in principle, is the best. I agree, improper implementation of such a system will create a mess!! For this, the state governments are equally responsible..

  13. Hey man, me too am kinda undecided on this this n agree tht its almost impossible to implement.. On one side, I think its like sayin we can control ppl who spew venom n try to spread the virtual equivalent of hate speeches n on the othr side, is the freedom of expression ..

    very interestin thought u brought out Binu .. like ur stand :)

  14. @Raj: You are right buddy... Its like 2 sides of the same coin.. A sword with 2 edges!!

  15. @Raj: You are right buddy... Its like 2 sides of the same coin.. A sword with 2 edges!!

  16. @Raj: You are right buddy... Its like 2 sides of the same coin.. A sword with 2 edges!!

  17. My take on Kapil Sibal's plan to censorship:

  18. The article is very well written and well analyzed and not at all biased. Great writing :-)

    I've had similar views on this topic.

    When someone wants to express their opinion against something, they either say why they are against it and justify themselves(in a way that does not hurt anyone) or they resort to using harsh language and derogatory words and sentences which might hurt the sentiments of those who are in favour of it. The intention of both the parties are the same, to express their dissent, but then the way they're doing it is different.

    The later approach is what Sibal is talking about. But the problem is, when it comes to screening, there is a very thin line between then two ways I've mentioned and they both would fall on the same category, this is where the problem comes.


All yours..

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