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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Censoring social media antisocial

NAGPUR: Social media, the 'virtual' land of the free and home of the brave, is under attack. However, Nagpurians have come out in support of online freedom, trashing communications and IT minister Kapil Sibal's intentions and suggestions.

Sibal had said recently that the modern, powerful online platform, which has played a major role recently across the world in ending tyrant dictatorships, and closer home in forcing the mighty to take notice of various demands, should be monitored to avoid objectionable content. The ambiguity of what would constitute 'objectionable content' is worrying most of the stakeholders.

Citizens in Nagpur came down heavily on Sibal's statements. Considering the role social media played in Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement, many feel the government wants to stop citizens from banding together.

Ajay Sanghi, city coordinator for India Against Corruption ( IAC), says the government is moving towards a repeat of the emergency situation. "They are going after Team Anna and the gloves are off. First, they put restriction on the number of SMS people can send, and now the social media is coming under the radar. The government is targeting our main communication tools, hoping that we will succumb. This is emergency part II," said Sanghi.

MLA Devendra Fadnavis prides himself on being active in the virtual world and said he was appalled by Sibal's statements. "I always thought there was a difference between China and India, but after listening to Sibal I feel we are now moving towards a Made-in-China democracy. If the government is supervising my moves online then they are curbing my freedom of speech guaranteed by the constitution," said Fadnavis.

Youth Against Corruption (YAC), an organization promoted by Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) recently held a three-day protest against corruption in Nagpur. Swapnil Kathale of YAC said, "Social media is the tool we all use to get our message to the public as fast as possible and it helps in making any protest or rally a success. Sibal's remarks smell of a conspiracy to clamp down on any public uprising against their corrupt system."

Adman Sanjay Arora said, "Less than one per cent of India's population uses Facebook and Twitter, and the government wants to clamp down on that as well! Censorship has never worked anywhere in the world and it will boomerang here too. There was a lot of rage today in Twitter as users bashed Sibal on the issue."

Fadnavis feels that social media has in fact brought in a lot of positive changes. "The virtual world is shattering walls of caste, creed and colour as people are interacting more and more," said Fadnavis.

Sanghi said, tongue firmly in cheek, "The things that need monitoring are the mouths of Sibal, Digvijay Singh and Manish Tewari."


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