Stung by criticism over its handling of the exodus of people from north-eastern states, the government has threatened legal action against micro-blogging site Twitter and could also seek assistance from US authorities to track down offensive material posted on websites in order to get such content pulled off.
When asked if the government could consider legal action against Twitter, R Chandrashekhar, Secretary, Department of Telecommunications said, “Absolutely . It also includes action with regards to the services they provide within the country, it includes actions to revenues accrued within the country and regarding the damages caused within the country.”
According to Chandrashekhar, Twitter has been slow in their responses to the government’s complaints and it may be because they don’t have any offices in the country.
“On Twitter we have had particular problems, it may be in part because they don’t have an office in India, but the response from Twitter in particular has been extremely poor. Many of the sites that should be blocked have not been blocked,” he told CNN-IBN.
“In cases where there is no response in spite of lawful government directions, then the government will need to do whatever is possible,” Chandrashekhar said.
The government is also reportedly planning to write to the US Department of Homeland security to take action against websites that have been carrying offensive material, suspected to have been uploaded from Pakistan.
The government’s decision comes even as social networking sites like Google and Facebook have reportedly said that they couldn’t take action against people uploading offensive content, since they were located outside India, the Times of India reported.
The government is also planning a meeting with Internet companies where they will bring up the issue of delayed reponse, with Telecommunications Minister Kapil Sibal saying,”We will hold a dialogue with Facebook, Google and others to seek their cooperation to prevent a recurrence.”
However, despite the best intentions of the government, it remains a mystery if even Twitter will be able to do what the government is seeking of it. Given the number of tweets and retweets per minute, it’s unlikely that the micro-blogging site will be able to comply with the governments directive, unless, of course, in the highly unviable scenario that it can put filters on all the websites that are being shared by its users.
The difficulty of this task is further compounded by the speed at which content is shared on Twitter. One tweet can garner over a hundred retweets in a minute, depending on how many followers an account has. This, suffice to say, makes it extremely difficult for any one site to block every single instance of a link or offensive piece of content that may be tweeted out.
And furthermore, As Firstpost had pointed out earlier, it’s not enough to merely blame the websites, or even Pakistan for the violence in Assam or the subsequent exodus of people from other states to their homes in north-eastern states.
India’s internal politics are perhaps as much to blame for the situation that prevails in the country presently and unfortunately that can’t be wished away merely by shutting down websites or curbing social media.