Indian Communications and Information Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said Tuesday he has asked Facebook, Twitter, Google and other Web sites to screen content before it is published, denying the request amounted to censorship.
Some network sites informed Sibal they remove material that violates their terms, the Times of India reported. But sources in Sibal's ministry told the newspaper the screening process falls short of ensuring against offending Indian community standards.
Sibal said altered pictures of leaders of the ruling party have appeared on such sites. He said he wants companies to have a monitoring mechanism to filter images and content that could inflame religious sensibilities, Voice of America reported.
Sibal said the government would develop guidelines and mechanisms to ensure "blasphemous material" is not uploaded.
"This government does not believe in censorship," VOA quoted him as saying. "This government does not believe in either directly or indirectly interfering in the freedom of the press ... ."
The network sites have said with about 100 million Internet users in India, it would impossible to comply with the government request.
VOA said many bloggers and Twitter comments ridiculed the government's demands.
Facebook told CNN-IBN: "We want Facebook to be a place where people can discuss things freely, while respecting the rights and feelings of others, which is why we already have policies and on-site features in place that enable people to report abusive content."
"Absolutely, it's censorship of free speech," the editor of a company that analyzes digital media told CNN. "The fear I have is that this is the beginning of something bigger."
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