The title of this post is both attention grabbing and an unpalatable truth. This post and its title is inspired by a Twitter trend (with a hash tag #idiotkapilsibal) that brought my attention to what Kapil Sibal is doing.
A key Congress leader, Kapil Sibal is a minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the ruling coalition at the Center. He is also a very famous legal eagle - one of this country's most famous lawyers. Another important qualification, if I may call it that, is that he is a myrmidon, i.e. a blind follower of the two Gs (no pun intended!) - Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi; this is probably his trump card that readily advances his political interests.
No, this writing is not a diatribe against Kapil Sibal; it is against every individual who believes that they can misuse and abuse their freedom of speech and action to trample on our freedom of speech and action.
The reasons for my anger against Sibal's actions are the contents of an article in the New York Times. About six weeks back, Sibal, the Union Minister for Telecommunications and IT, met the executives of top technology and social media companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft. He asked the executives to prescreen user content originating from India and that they should remove inflammatory or defamatory before it goes online.
Sibal's directive would have been alright if it were directed in the context of our national interest and the country's security - like anything anti-national and spreading of hate content.
What makes Sibal's directive dangerous for the health of our democratic freedoms are the reasons for the censorship: Internet users from India are using social media networks (like Facebook and Twitter) to disparage the Congress leadership (read - the mother-son duo, who else!).
Let me reproduce an excerpt from the New York Times article:
At the meeting, Mr Sibal showed attendees [the company executives] a Facebook page that maligned the Congress Party’s president, Sonia Gandhi. “This is unacceptable,” he told attendees... and he asked them to find a way to monitor what is posted on their sites.
[...] Sibal has told these companies that he expects them to set up a proactive prescreening system, with staffers looking for objectionable content and deleting it before it is posted.
[T]hese companies will tell Sibal at the meeting on Monday [held on Dec 5; no word yet from Sibal or his ministry on the outcome] that his demand is impossible, given the volume of user-generated content coming from India, and that they cannot be responsible for determining what is and isn’t defamatory or disparaging.
“If there’s a law and there’s a court order, we can follow up on it,” said an executive from one of the companies attending the meeting. But these companies can’t be in the business of deciding what is and isn’t legal to post.It is heartening to know that these technology and social media companies have refused to accept the diktat of the morally bankrupt government at the Center.
I am glad that Kapil Sibal did not win this case for his Madam and her Baba son; Sibal may not have shown any spine; at least these foreign companies have. This augurs well for our sacred freedoms of speech and expression, so beautifully guaranteed by the noble Constitution of India.
And yes, one question for Kapil Sibal: Would he have asked the technology companies to prescreen and remove any disparaging content against Narendra Modi?
(Read The Ugly Face of the Gandhis and Mother, Son and the INC's Political Culture.)