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Parikshit Vivekanand | The News Minute| November 11, 2014| 6.50 pm IST Facebook recently released the 3rd government requests report which adorned India with a staggering 4559 requests for content restrictions. India along with the U.S. records the highest number of requests for content restrictions.  The report lists 83 countries out of which France, Germany, India, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States of America have the maximum number of requests for user data. When The News Minute questioned Carson Dalton who works in the Communications department at Facebook about the vast number of restricted content in India compared to USA (which has many requests, but not much content actually restricted) they responded saying that, “The Indian authorities will be able to answer this best. We restrict access to content only when it is illegal under local law”. Out of total number of requests recorded, Facebook has implied content restrictions on 4960 pieces and the percentage of requests where some data was produced is 50.87%.  An interview with Mr. Nishant Shah, Director of Research and Co-founder of the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore gave us a better understanding of the online privacy policy laws. Do you think non-governmental organizations have the right to request restriction of content on social media platforms?I think we have fought very hard to have a National Right to Information Act in this country, which ensures that information is unrestricted, both in its access, and in its accountability. Such a transparent view of Information means that everybody has the right to free speech and expression. But it also means that anybody - an individual citizen, a non-governmental organisation, or the state - has the right to also request for restriction on expressions that they find harmful. Having said that, there is no doubt that censorship is the worst form of control. It only enables stifling of free speech and takes away one of our most fundamental rights of self-determination and expression. While they are legally entitled to do so, it would be curious to examine their motives, because many non-governmental organisations often work in extremely conservative environments and use this right to curtail free speech as a form of crushing out voices of dissent or political questioning. India is the only country with the maximum number of sanctioned restricted content, why is that? It might have to do with many factors. First, just the sheer number game. India has one of the largest growing user group for Facebook. As mobile and data services become more ubiquitous, we know that more and more people are going online. And as they do that, there is going to be a larger interest in governing what is being said on Facebook. But the main reason for this might be that we live in a great paradox of information regimes. On the one hand, we believe, as the largest democracy in the world, that free speech and expression are our basic rights. And we exercise them online. At the same time, we are increasingly seeing a government which has not been very pro-free speech and expression on social media, despite it being enshrined in our constitutional rights. It wasn't long ago, that Dr. Kapil Sibal, for instance, was asking for a pre-censorship of information on the social web. We have seen endless examples of the government agencies trying to remove or punish content online. We also have to remember that given the fairly conservative social ethos in the country, a large number of people do use the social networking sites for practices that might be objectionable - from stalking and bullying to exchanging pornographic and anti-state content.  Do you think it is right for companies like Facebook to restrict on the assumption that users have read the privacy policy page?  I don't see any other way around this. When we, as users, sign a Terms of Service, we need to be aware of what we are signing in for. It would be impossible for Facebook or any other company to put their fine-print in big-print, so to speak. And yet, given the huge response from Facebook users about their privacy, Facebook has consistently tried to make its privacy controls easy to use and transparent, giving people more options to own their data. Should Facebook take down the post/uploaded content without warning the user by categorizing it as objectionable material? This depends on different circumstances. The Intermediaries Liabilities Act in India enables Facebook to take down objectionable content without any warnings, if the content is marked as objectionable or abusive according to its Terms of Service. We also know that social media companies hire thousands of human agents who look at all the content and even without it being marked as abusive, remove objectionable content that often includes extremely graphic acts of sexual violence and torture. Using a service for 'free' is a contract. Just as you would read the fine print on your bank documents, the user is expected to also read the contracts that Facebook puts out before you sign up. Facebook is not responsible to give warnings before deleting content or even blocking accounts. However, they do take the responsibility of arbitration where a user can negotiate with them about the quality of their content or the veracity of their accounts. Public information is the information that the user makes public, so does Facebook have the right to restrict content that circulated in closed groups or communities or pages or shared between two users? Yes, Facebook censors everything. The difference between public and private information is not about how Facebook will censor it but who will be able to access it. So, if there is an objectionable picture that is being sent, even just on Facebook messenger, there is a chance that it will be identified either through human or algorithmic intelligence, as problematic and will be removed from the system. When the newsminute questioned Facebook about their privacy policy and the rights of the users in terms of ownership of the content on they responded saying “Like our last two reports, this report includes data about government requests for user information. For the second time we are also including requests we get from governments to restrict content that they believe violates their laws. In such instances, we carefully scrutinize these requests and if the content is illegal we make it unavailable in the relevant jurisdictions. The vast majority of all government requests for user data are related to law enforcement requests in criminal matters – such as fraud, kidnappings, etc. 
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