The Government will not censor or manage Internet content, Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal said on Thursday.

The Minister has consented to form a multi-stakeholder meeting involving industry, citizens, academicians and NGOs to discuss the IT rules governing Internet-related entities.

Working group

The Ministry will set up a working group that will actively review and examine the IT rules and make recommendations to the Government.

“This meeting was to discuss our rules under the IT Act — whether they are at all inconsistent with freedom of speech.

The general consensus was that they are not. There needs to be due diligence on the part of the intermediaries and due diligence with consistent norms,” Kapil Sibal said, after a roundtable with stakeholders on Thursday.

Reacting to the Government’s stand, Nasscom president Som Mittal said: “The statement that the Government is not looking at controlling or managing the content should be there on the cover of the guidelines so that there is no scope for misinterpretation.”

Kapil Sibal’s statement comes as a relief for Netizens worried by recent move of the IT Ministry to crack down on content generated by social media and blogs.

“We laud the Government’s initiative in this regard. We are always willing to share our position and members of Google were invited for this meeting, but due to the short notice, they were not able to attend,” a Google India spokesperson said. The entire issue of censorship and lack of accountability of governing bodies vis-à-vis the Internet in India was brought into sharp focus during a debate over the Intermediary Guidelines, which are part of the IT Act 2000.

Accountability

The questions raised during a Parliamentary debate were also related to issues of freedom of expression, both from the point of view of the government and other stakeholders.

The demand for consultation with the stakeholders was put forth by Member of Parliament Rajeev Chandrasekhar to encourage growth of the Internet, while addressing issues of national security sufficiently.

ronendrasingh.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 2, 2012)
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