The rationale behind the proposal is the argument that India is a country with many religions and beliefs, so what seems humorous to someone can be objectionable to another. Therefore, in order to avoid conflict and prevent dissent among the citizens, a proactive prescreening process should be implemented, so that the content is deleted before it reaches the feeds of all 25 million Indian Facebook users.
To say that this makes me raise an eyebrow is a gross understatement. Thankfully, Facebook responded in turn that it would not be helping the country in this effort, claiming that it has policies in place to remove content that violates its own TOS. In short, a flat-out refusal to change its parameters according to what the Indian government deems unacceptable. From a business standpoint, a more than acceptable decision – Facebook has users totaling up to the hundred millions and counting these days. In a community that size, it’s infeasible and unrealistic to watch everyone’s every move all the time.On the one hand, Facebook could hire people to determine what’s defamatory and disparaging; on the other hand… why?
Apart from regular sweeps, users are more than free to report anything they find offensive for the Facebook team to look at and get rid of. Then there’s the fact that if Facebook submits to this kind of censorship, who’s to say that other countries with more suppressive governments won’t ask the company to censor content it deems unacceptable? A picture of a bunny might not cause any severe reactions from you or me, cuz, but there’s got to be someone out there who might not take to it too kindly. It’s a big mess waiting to happen, with the possible end being the demise of Facebook itself, as “possibly offensive” content gets deleted, and deleted, and deleted… until nothing’s left.
The Internet has long been free ground. It exists independent of a government, and its reach is massive. In countries where local, traditional media is suppressed by governments, the web offers a soapbox for anyone with a message with the guarantee that at least someone will hear. This is especially true for social networking websites, where a captive audience readily sits waiting. Using Parental Controls to steer a child away from dangerous websites is markedly different from a committee creating guidelines on what’s fit to post and what’s not.
The thing is if you’re old enough to be on the internet, then you’re old enough to close the tab and walk away when you see something that bugs you. There’s a line in the musical Avenue Q that goes, ‘the Internet is for porn’. Not to say that porn is the only thing on it, but things that shock and offend come with the package. Censoring Facebook makes no sense from a business perspective, as well as a social one. India’s request approaches “The Great Firewall of China” proportions, just executed differently. And even then it’s murky: precisely what do they want censored? Offensive images? Bad words? If this is the way they want to go, they’re probably better off just blocking Facebook entirely.