Nisha Menon
Points of View

POV: Should user-generated content be monitored?

After being in the dock for carrying 'objectionable' content, Google and Facebook, along with15 other websites, are fighting for what they call internet freedom. Wikipedia went dark to protest the Web Piracy Bill being introduced in the US. afaqs! speaks to industry experts to find out if a move to monitor content can backfire.

Paritosh Joshi,


POV: Should user-generated content be monitored?
When asked to offer my two-bit on whether user-generated content can be monitored, my immediate response was laden with invective expressions. Any publication that caters to people of refined and/or delicate tastes would find it hard to publish. For what it is worth, here it is, with bits bleeped out: "Only a *bleep*er, would reasonably suggest monitoring user-generated content. Or else, her/his name is Wen JiaBao or Kim Jong Number Un or something".

How big is this UGC thing anyway? Take a relatively small example. Twitter crossed 200 million tweets a day in June, 2011. At even 5 per cent compounded monthly growth rate, that should have ballooned to 280 million a day now. And, we haven't even begun talking about Facebook. Unless, of course, you choose to do a PR China and simply firewall it right out of reach.

Guess what! It isn't going to work because everyone will start figuring our proxy servers. Or perhaps you, or someone called Sybil or Sillable or Sibaling Rivalry (whatever) decided to say, to hell with Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. In which case, there is, quite literally, nothing left to say.

My 13-year-old figured out how to beat Net Nanny when she was 10. And someone thinks he can have a Net Supernanny to cover everyone?

That ship has sailed. Deal with it.

Bharat Kapadia,


POV: Should user-generated content be monitored?
Gone are the days when a piece of news could be vetted and an editor could control what was being published. In these modern times, content generation has become real-time, making it practically impossible to monitor it. With the scope of the internet being so large and new ways to publish content coming up rapidly, it becomes physically and technically impossible to keep a check.

This is a classic case of shoot the messenger who brings bad news. Just because a website brings up objectionable content on a search does not make it punishable. What is right and wrong is a matter of judgment, and is totally subjective.

On a lighter note, to know why Wikipedia was blacked out for a day, one will have to probably refer to Wikipedia itself!

Sunil Abraham

Executive director, Centre for Internet and Society

POV: Should user-generated content be monitored?
User-generated content is already heavily monitored. Be it Facebook or Wikipedia, these sites are heavily monitored by persons and machines. Bots monitoring pornography via image processing, intellectual property via watermarking and pattern recognition, and ban-lists via semantic analysis are already used to ensure that content is compliant with the law of the land, and with the usually even more restrictive site or community "terms of use".

The World Wide Web has, for most parts, gone extinct. Under the Information Technology Act 2000, amended in 2008, take-down notices can be sent to remove illegal content. Our research indicates that even the largest national and international intermediaries happily over-comply with frivolous complaints and only bother about freedom of expression when it undermines their business models. Unfortunately, the IT Act and its associated rules have severely diluted free speech rights for Indians. Now, the government hopes to convince intermediaries to dilute their own terms of reference and step-up enforcement levels.

We should not fool ourselves into thinking that private sector companies like Google will defend our fundamental rights. The next Parliament session is the last opportunity for parliamentarians to ask for the revocation of the rules for intermediaries, cyber-cafes and reasonable security practices.

Alok Kejriwal

CEO, Games2win

POV: Should user-generated content be monitored?
I feel that user-generated content should not be monitored, but moderated. And, this responsibility lies with the users or consumers. The reason for this is simple - wisdom of the crowd is more powerful than the wisdom of one.

On the other hand, sites like Google and Facebook, which are in the dock for carrying objectionable content, are being plain arrogant. They have forgotten their purpose for being here. These companies must realise that just because we Indians have a great press and judicial system, they do not have the freedom to publish anything that is derogatory to our culture. In my view, they are behaving like spoilt American brats, who have no respect for another culture, mythology and values.

Anupam Mukerji

The fake IPL player

Co-founder, Pitch Invasion

POV: Should user-generated content be monitored?
There are few amongst us who wouldn't want to be amused by a speaking parrot which regales us with stuff it's trained to speak. But, what would you do if your speaking parrot refused to toe your line, spoke only the truth with scant regard to diplomacy and political correctness, spilling your beans to visitors every day?

For far too long, the political class has survived and thrived by keeping the media in covert and overt control, thereby directing public opinion where they wanted. Online social media has changed the rules of this game.

The medium isn't the criminal. Acting against a medium is worse than even shooting the messenger.

The new age citizen is a different animal from any of the past. More aware, more travelled, more opinionated and more demanding. This is a species you try to control at your own peril. But, if you try to embrace it in the right spirit, it will reciprocate in kind.

The constitution gives us the right to voice our opinions without fear. The same constitution also prohibits us from spreading lies, defaming people, inciting violence or acting in an anti-national manner.

India needs an environment of freedom and fearlessness because without this, we will be nothing but 'a China with poor infrastructure'.

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