Will Facebook bring down India?Of course not, but the Indian government seems to think differently, and has requested sites like Facebook and Google remove content that says cutting and wounding things about the government. Apparently, New Delhi believes that Facebook groups called “We hate Sonia Gandhi” or “Manmohan Singh is a puppet of Sonia Gandhi” are a matter of national security. NPR has the story:
“We are seeking their cooperation, and if somebody is not willing to cooperate on incendiary material like this, it is the duty of government to think of steps that we need to take,” [India’s telecommunications minister Kapil Sibal] said. “We don’t want to interfere in freedom of the press, but this kind of material should not be allowed.”
Here at Via Meadia we are shocked, shocked! to hear that members of a democratic society let off steam by saying nasty things about the political authorities. And not content with that, they put harsh comments on the internet, joining with other seditious and discontented elements.It’s a good thing the telecommunications ministry bureaucrats don’t spend much time surfing the US web; we could show them a thing or two about making nasty cracks about the rules.The impulse to protect national leaders from unfair or excessively meanspirited critique is not an unnatural one. Here at Via Meadia we actually do police the comments section to remove what we in our infallible taste consider unacceptably hostile or insulting language to the President of the United States, but that is our policy on one website. We would be genuinely pained and alarmed to hear that the White House was trying to stifle public comment, however insulting or unfair and we would do everything we could to make the authors of such a misguided and dangerous policy feel foolish and isolated. (Incitement to violence, of course, is something else.)India’s democracy is old enough and stable enough that Delhi bureaucrats have no business interfering with free speech on the web. VM looks forward to being able to report that such initiatives have been dropped; they are unworthy of a great country and of a political movement with as noble a history as the Congress Party.