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India calls for Facebook, Google to remove offensive content

Web firms will face 'stern action' if requests are not met

The Indian government is calling for Facebook, Google and other web firms to remove offensive content.

Communications Minister Kapil Sibal said any "inflammatory" and "defamatory" content covering religion and politics that could create social tension should be removed or the web giants, which also include Yahoo and YouTube, will face "stern action". It is thought Sibal in particular objects to comments and images of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"These websites have been told to be more vigilant towards such content and ensure that such objectionable matter is not used on the Internet," a senior official of the Department of Telecommunications told The Hindu.

"They have been asked to inform the government of such controversial matter so that immediate remedial measures could be taken. We have asked them to actively screen and filter all such material before they are uploaded."

Facebook, which has 28 million users in India, said in a statement it "will remove any content that violates our terms, which are designed to keep material that is hateful, threatening, incites violence or contains nudity off the service".

"(We) will continue to engage the Indian authorities as they debate this important issue."

According to Reuters, Sibal first asked the firms to remove the content in September but his requests have fallen on deaf ears.

"We have to take care of the sensibilities of our people, we have to protect their sensibilities. Our cultural ethos is very important to us," he said.

"We'll certainly evolve guidelines to ensure that such blasphemous material is not part of content on any platform."

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