Indian Official Promises India Won't Censor The Internet... Except, You Know, When It Has To Censor The Internet

from the funny-how-that-works dept

One of the frustrating things about the SOPA/PIPA debate was the way that defenders of the bill tried so hard to dodge the censorship label. However, as Professor Derek Bambauer helpfully pointed out months ago, any form of content blocking by the government is censorship. It's just a question of whether or not it's acceptable censorship -- and, most people are comfortable with some level of censorship. But SOPA/PIPA defenders often refuse to admit this... hiding behind some claim about how since infringement is illegal, it's not censorship.

But this misses the point: every form of government censorship is based on the claim that the censored content is "illegal" in some manner.

Witness the situation in India. A few months ago, we wrote about Indian Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Kapil Sibal, who had apparently been pushing internet companies to pre-screen all user-generated content to stop jerks. Then, last month, some Indian courts similarly told internet companies to block content. Apparently, recently, another official -- Minister of State for Communications & IT, Sachin Pilot, (whose title seems to overlap quite a bit with Sibal's) -- said that internet companies "must comply."

Well, now, Sibal is back, insisting that the government won't censor social media at all:
"I want to say once and for all, without any obfuscation, no government in India will ever censor social media."
Except, that's not true. In clarifying his earlier remarks to those same companies, Sibal said he saw "the need for a new system to be enforced for dealing with content that is in breach of Indian law." But what is that, other than censorship? Sibal is playing the same game as SOPA/PIPA defenders -- insisting that as long as certain content is declared illegal, it can be censored, but leaving out the fact that they get to decide what is and is not declared illegal. The defenders of these kinds of things like to pretend that it's universally obvious what's "illegal" and what's not, and that it could never ever happen that legitimate content -- such as critical political commentary -- would ever get falsely flagged as being illegal. But, having seen exactly that happen too many times (including through the use of bogus copyright claims), it's a very legitimate concern.

What Sibal is really saying here is that the government won't censor content that he thinks is okay. But if people in the government don't think it's okay, it'll get declared illegal and get censored. That takes away greatly from his unequivocal statement about no censorship, doesn't it?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Designerfx (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 7:54am

    if you hear the same lines, it's from the same people

    This pretty much confirms that he's in the pocket of the MPAA/RIAA in some form, directly.

    It's no accident that they all say the same story on the same issue.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:07am

    Redefining the dictionary

    Some of these crazy politicians need to start picking up a dictionary and look up the word before they make such silly statements... rather than just redefine the definition of the words they use.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:08am

    Illegal material removed or blocked isn't censorship, plain and simple.

     

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  4.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:09am

    Sounds like Doublethink to me. We won't censor any content, accept for the content we'll censor.

     

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  5.  
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    Machin Shin (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:10am

    Re:

    Ok, so by your logic China does not censor the internet. Good to know. Thank you for clearing that up for me.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:12am

    since infringement is illegal, it's not censorship

    So then why is isn't the U.S seizing Hollywood studios and labels and extraditing its members for trial? Don't they know the junk they "produce" is in violation of the laws of several countries? Namely Sharia law?

    And why do they always complain about Iran and China's censorship? Don't they know its illegal to make movies about Tibet?

     

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  7.  
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    orbitalinsertion (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:20am

    Pfft. India does censorship for whatever reason by any means if it is in the interests of the government.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2012/01/23/when-offending-sensibilities-is-mo re-important-than-death-threats/

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/01/mr-rush die-regrets/

    Here they try the "for your own safety" method first, when what they mean is "your book is already banned anyway". One clear motivation is keeping one religious group happy in an election year.

     

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  8.  
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    PaulT (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:23am

    Re:

    Illegal in which country?

     

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  9.  
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    silverscarcat (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:30am

    Re:

    Yes it is.

    Look at the prohibition. Alcohol was illegal then, and it was removed and destroyed by the law back then.

    Guess what happened?

    Crime lords like Al Capone became powerful thanks to smuggling illegal alcohol around.

    Anything that removes something from the internet is censorship, plain and simple.

    Censorship is the blocking of information by the government, no matter how or why.

    You want people to go to something legal?

    Make it appealing.

    The hidden truth of the free market is that people WILL get what they want and HOW they want it for the price THEY want.

    If the price is too high or the product too hard to find, well...

    That's why Black Markets exist.

    And that's why Al Capone was able to become as powerful as he had been back in the day.

     

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  10.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:32am

    Re:

    Riiiiiigggghhhht, and putting that power in the hands of the folks that get to decide what's illegal is just, like, totally going to work out and stuff.

    Idiot.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Michael, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:33am

    Re:

    Yes, except that you failed to point out how it's only become considered illegal activity based upon the laws as redefined by the private corps themselves via legislation and treaties which they had a hand in crafting, minus public scrutiny. The reason governments are in favor of proposals to censor internet content is because they know that it will set a nice precedent for them to justify other forms of censorship in the future, particularly with regards to politics. Once they've got their foot in the door, it will prove extremely difficult to shut it.

    I wonder if the private corps which have a hand in drafting and promoting such heavy-handed measures are prepared for public backlash and inevitable boycotting of all their precious 'intellectual property.' They're engaged in corporate terrorism -- they use their money and influence to deprive us of our freedoms step by step. Somehow I don't believe that the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms had this form of public abuse in mind.

     

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  12.  
    icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re: Limp Noodle

    Smacking a troll with logic--no matter how eloquent, true or well presented--is a complete waste of time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:43am

    Re:

    You have posted an illegal opinion.

    Prepare to be terminated.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    jackn2, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:46am

    I want to say once and for all, without any obfuscation, no government in India will ever censor social media

    He WANTS to say, that ain't saying

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:46am

    Re:

    The definition of the word censorship - and the word objectionable, disagree with you, plain and simple.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:53am

    Except, that's not true. In clarifying his earlier remarks to those same companies, Sibal said he saw "the need for a new system to be enforced for dealing with content that is in breach of Indian law."

    In some countries Nazi stuff or denying the Holocaust is illegal. In the US, child porn is illegal. I don't consider blocking child porn to be censorship. If I judged countries that block Nazi crap by US standards I'd feel it to be censorship. But is it censorship if it is consistent with the country's own law and customs? Or should there be a universal minimum right of free speech covering politics and religion?

    The US routinely shows its arrogance with its notion that a representative democracy is the most highly evolved form of government. That's simply untrue and doesn't work in cultures without at least a kernel of such traditions. I think the same holds true for standards of "censorship". US-style free speech may not work for very single culture on the face of the earth.

    Again, it's not that I don't believe in free speech, I simply think that the US version may not be suitable for everyone, everywhere.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:56am

    this is why he's a politician. he can do the 'double talk' bit with total conviction. he knows what he means but expects no one else to.

     

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  18.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 9:02am

    Re:

    Of course we're not censoring CONTENT on social networks we're blocking things that might be found objectionable to decent Indian society. That's not censorship any more than back in the day when they took scissors to everything in site in Boston. It's protection!!!!!

    Of what, we don't know yet.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    silverscarcat (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 9:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Limp Noodle

    You gotta try, at the very least, it makes them respond and say stupid stuff so we can laugh at them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 9:03am

    Re:

    Come on, Mr Troll. You didn't even try with that one.

    0/10

    I expect more effort on your part. The music labels are paying you good money to astroturf, and this is how you perform? If I was your supervisor, you'd be out of a job at your next performance review unless I start seeing some real improvement.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 9:08am

    Re:

    I don't consider blocking child porn to be censorship.

    That's the thing, though - it IS censorship. It's just censorship that we as a community agree with. There's nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of things that I'm totally OK censoring (child porn being the most obvious).

    A rose is a rose is a rose. The problems come when the censorship goes too far. That's where discussions need to start happening *BEFORE* the censorship takes place.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Bengie, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 9:28am

    Re:

    If I shoot someone in self-defense, it won't kill the other person, because it's only killing if it's illegal.

    They're still alive!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 9:45am

    Re:

    Yes. He WANTS to say that, but he can't as it isn't true.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re:

    To followup on your excellent point (of COURSE it's censorship): we, as a society, have to decide when the benefits of censorship exceed the costs. In the case of child porn, we've decided one way. In the case of essays about apple trees and geometry textbooks and movies about cars, we've decided another.

    But we should (a) be very reluctant to censor anything. Only after considerable PUBLIC debate, and the presentation of compelling evidence buttressed by strong arguments, should we even consider so. And if we do, then (b) we should periodically reconsider our decisions: what made some kind of sense in 1982 may well not make any sense at all now.

    And we certainly should not censor anything merely because someone, somewhere finds it offensive. That is in and of itself a compelling argument to support it adamantly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    Nastybutler77 (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 9:47am

    Re:

    Obvious troll is obvious.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    timmaguire42, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 10:15am

    It's always helpful to pretend your opponents are unreasonable or ignorant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 10:44am

    Re: Re:

    That's the thing, though - it IS censorship. It's just censorship that we as a community agree with. There's nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of things that I'm totally OK censoring (child porn being the most obvious).


    That's kind of my point. The majority of Americans are fine with child porn being buried and do not consider it censorship as it fits within our societal norms. I'm just suggesting that if any such censorship falls within those norms it's no big deal and we ought not to judge other civil societies by our own standard when it comes to their particular form of "censorship".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Jayesh Badwaik, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 10:46am

    Re: if you hear the same lines, it's from the same people

    Hi,

    I am from India and NO, he is not in pocket of MPAA/RIAA.
    Actually, in India, censorship is for completely different reasons. Something similar to Egypt, Iran rather than USA.

    But, in recent months, Reliance Industries have been applying SOPA like censorship in India too. So, it is not yet a problem but it will soon be.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    The Groove Tiger (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Limp Noodle

    Don't forget: you're not smacking the troll down for the troll's benefit, but for the benefit of all other readers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    Hephaestus (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re:

    Of course they will decide that any business competing with them is legal.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re:

    Anything that removes something from the internet is censorship, plain and simple.

    Censorship is the blocking of information by the government, no matter how or why.


    So, your name must be pedobear, since you must want child porn to be legal, since your against blocking ANYTHING on the internet.........

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 12:04pm

    Except When We Do

    You have all failed to appreciate the brilliance of Indian politicians. Now they can say anything that sounds good and completely nullify their own statement just by adding the words "except when we do" at the end. Endless fun can be had saying stuff that everybody wants to hear. For example:

    We will not censor the internet! Except when we do.

    We will never engage in corruption! Except when we do.

    Next we will have this little phrase "except when we do" replaced by a silent asterisk, purely to avoid tedious repetition.

    There is no way we will ever accept bribes!*

    We will never lie to the people!*

    It is genius.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    Blah, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 1:17pm

    Re: if you hear the same lines, it's from the same people

    I think some of you are reading this wrong: I doubt it has much to do with copyright issues or the MPAA etc. What it is about, are the demonstrations against corruption in India last year, the whole Anna Hazare and Lokpal Bill thing (look it up, interesting stuff). In short, there were massive demonstrations against corruption in government.

    The core of the issue now is that they want to prevent this from happening again. They are taking it so far as claiming that wrongfully accusing someone of corruption is illegal. Also, demonstrating against corruption, in their minds, equals instigating rioting, which is also illegal. Now, with such censorships laws in place, next time this happens they can block all the twitter and facebook messages that go out calling people to stand up for their rights and against corruption. That's the ultimate goal here.

     

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  34.  
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    Brendan (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 1:39pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Hello logic failure. He did not say he was _against_ all censorship/blocking, just that any type of content removal by the government _is_ censorship.

    That is, removing child porn from a website is censorship, but it is censorship I consider acceptable.

    Similarly, removing copyrighted content whcih is allegedly infringing is also infringement. However, I do not think such censorship is acceptable until after an adversarial trial where a judge can determine if the use was fair etc.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Feb 15th, 2012 @ 2:49pm

    Re:

    The US routinely shows its arrogance with its notion that a representative democracy is the most highly evolved form of government. That's simply untrue and doesn't work in cultures without at least a kernel of such traditions. I think the same holds true for standards of "censorship". US-style free speech may not work for very single culture on the face of the earth.

    Again, it's not that I don't believe in free speech, I simply think that the US version may not be suitable for everyone, everywhere.


    Ah, moral relativism. Most people grow out of it once they actually have some principles. Others...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 5:17pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm not arrogant enough to believe in moral absolutes. Particularly my own. What may be right and acceptable in one culture (or circumstance) is wrong and unacceptable in another.

    Hell Masnick, you couldn't believe it either. Otherwise you could not continue to defend those who wrongfully profit from exploiting the copyrighted the work of others without compensating the rightful owner and in violation of the law. Morally, our society holds that breaking society's laws is wrong. But you seem to believe that in certain situations related to intellectual property rights that doesn't hold. That's moral relativism too Chubby.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 5:21pm

    Re: Re:

    Ah, moral relativism. Most people grow out of it once they actually have some principles. Others...

    Your hypocrisy is as unflattering as the haircut your Mom gives you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:47pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Your trolling is as unflattering as your mom's performance in bed.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2012 @ 8:50pm

    Re: Except When We Do

    The technical term is "reasonable restrictions".

    Citizens have certain fundamental rights!! ... subject to reasonable restrictions.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    PaulT (profile), Feb 16th, 2012 @ 12:32am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "I'm just suggesting that if any such censorship falls within those norms it's no big deal and we ought not to judge other civil societies "

    I'd have to correct you there, to be honest. Whether or not it fall within societal norms is irrelevant. Whether or not a majority consider it censorship is irrelevant. It's still censorship, no matter which label people wish to apply to it.

    There may be cultural differences as to what it is and isn't acceptable to censor, but it's still censorship either way. We can argue the finer points of who should censor what, and where the line comes where censorship actually infringes on speech and other freedoms, but it's still censorship,

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    nasch (profile), Feb 16th, 2012 @ 9:54am

    Re: Re: Re:

    And if we do, then (b) we should periodically reconsider our decisions: what made some kind of sense in 1982 may well not make any sense at all now.

    Leg warmers, for example.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Feb 16th, 2012 @ 9:57am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'm just suggesting that if any such censorship falls within those norms it's no big deal and we ought not to judge other civil societies by our own standard when it comes to their particular form of "censorship".

    That depends on whether you think liberty is something all humans have a right to enjoy, or if you think it's just a cultural thing. If the former, then we should criticize any government for inappropriate censorship. If the latter, then it doesn't really matter as long as they're censoring in a matter consistent with their cultural beliefs. I believe in the former.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    john gray, Jun 13th, 2012 @ 1:50am

    Promis are made to be broken

    If someone promise to you that he is be doing your work.
    On the other hand we can say that promises are need to be broken.
    Corruption in India

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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