Freedom of Information…

December 6, 2011

As I was skimming through my feeds in Google Reader today, I paused to read this piece in the New York Times about the Indian government’s plan to force internet companies like Google, Facebook, and others to pre-screen and censor content posted by users on their websites. It’s ironic (and sad) that such a story would appear in a section of the Times called “Notes on the World’s Largest Democracy.”

What’s more unfortunate is that this appears to be a growing trend across the world — China is well-known for its “Golden Shield Project” (more appropriately known as the Great Firewall of China); Pakistan was in the news recently for its attempt to censor the contents of text messages; the SOPA bill introduced into the U.S. Congress made waves all over the web last month. The list goes on.

The internet and social media have made it possible for information to spread freely and rapidly, and corrupt politicians all over the world are terrified of the power that this puts in the hands of the people. Kapil Sibal, the acting telecommunications minister in India, openly claims that a Facebook page criticizing the Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, is “unacceptable,” and that Facebook should be responsible for actively monitoring and blocking such content. Besides the obvious technical challenges involved in achieving something like this without expensive manual human intervention, the whole idea of preventing people from posting their thoughts on public forums is just plain wrong.

Kudos to Google, Facebook, et al for sticking to their guns, protecting their users, and doing the right thing.