After the US articulated its support for ‘full’ Internet freedom, Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal defended the government’s move to block websites stating that it was ‘not censorship’.
He also stated that the Centre was working with Internet companies on an institutional mechanism to remove inflammatory content.
After thousands of North-east Indians left many south Indian cities alarmed by rumours of retaliatory attacks following the Assam violence, the government had blocked 300 websites stating that they carried inaccurate, inflammatory content, which could provoke violence.
The Centre had also said that it was contemplating to remove certain accounts on social networking site Twitter, which impersonate Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
On Tuesday, US State Government spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that her country was watching how the probe into the source of the rumours that made people flee in large numbers unfolded.
“On the larger question of Internet freedom, you know where we are on that issue, and we are always on the side of full freedom of the Internet. But as the Indian government continues to investigate these instances and preserve security, we also always urge the government to maintain its own commitment to human rights, fundamental freedoms, rule of law,” she said.
Nuland also denied the US being engaged with India in the investigation of the rumours.
Further, on a question regarding the US Internet companies being ‘coerced’ by India to remove certain content, she said that the US was not aware of their ‘conversations’ with New Delhi.
“We maintain open lines to our own companies in India, as we do around the world, and we are obviously open to consultation with them if they need it from us,” she said.
In response to the US stand, Sibal said that the government’s action was “not censorship”.
“If there has been any misuse of technology leading to a criminal act, then of course those people will be punished,” he said.
He noted that while some social networking websites have agreed to share information with the government, others had not, contending that their servers located in the foreign countries was beyond India’s jurisdiction.
“We have to make efforts in consultation with the websites and impress upon them to create an institutional mechanism to prevent misuse of technology,” he told reporters outside Parliament.