KOLKATA – Indian politicians appear too sensitive on how they’re portrayed online. Why else would government agencies inundate Google – with an estimated 100 million users in India – with requests to remove content, especially those showing political leaders in bad light.
Kapil Sibal’s suggestion for pre-screening online content may have sparked controversy today, but when it comes to post-screening law enforcement agencies in India have been active. They regularly approach Internet service providers to remove anything they deem “offensive” to politicians.
This fact is borne out by a Google report published recently and posted on its website. A year ago, between July and December, Google received 282 such requests from different Indian law enforcement agencies to remove content. The increasing flow of such requests continued in the next six months. To cap it, a single agency even asked Google to remove 236 communities and profiles from social networking site Orkut as they were “critical of a local politician.” The extent of post screening can be gauged by a simple fact – Google was asked for “user data request” of 2,439 users in only the six months from January to June, this year. This is nearly a 1,000 more than those asked in the preceding six months.
The ” Transparency Report” prepared by Google says that in the last half of 2009, it received 142 requests from law enforcement agencies to remove content. “The majority of Indian requests for removal of content from Orkut related to alleged impersonation or defamation,” says the report.