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Ministerial meet steers clear of online regulation

Ministerial meet steers clear of online regulation
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First Published: Thu, Dec 15 2011. 10 28 PM IST

Policy approach: Kapil Sibal. Photo: AP
Policy approach: Kapil Sibal. Photo: AP
Updated: Thu, Dec 15 2011. 10 28 PM IST
New Delhi/Mumbai: The first ministerial meeting on the proposed social media policy steered clear of discussions on regulating online content, focusing instead on how the government could use networking sites to engage with citizens.
Policy approach: Kapil Sibal. Photo: AP
The Thursday meeting came a few days after Kapil Sibal, minister for communication and information technology, censured social networking sites for not regulating content deemed objectionable.
The department of information technology (DIT) held talks on the draft policy with around 100 representatives of Internet firms, government departments, civil society and industry bodies.
At the meeting, Sibal kept from making any controversial remark, said people who participated in the discussions. According to them, the minister said social media should be used as a platform for building bridges and not as a vehicle for abuse.
He also said the point of the policy was government empowerment as improved engagement with citizens would lead to better decision-making, according to these people, all of whom declined to be identified.
The meeting, which had representatives of Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Rediff and Facebook present, was called to get feedback on two policies of DIT—the framework norms for use of social media for government organizations, and the other on citizen engagement in the National e-governance Plan. Both policies were put up on DIT’s website for public discussion earlier this year.
The first policy paper lists the dos and don’ts for government departments while using the social media; the second deals with reaching out to citizens through engagement funds and pilots of e-governance projects.
A DIT official said the stakeholders more or less agreed with the frameworks and no “contentious issues” came up. “There could be some additions on issues of how to make government data more secure when it is put out on social networking companies’ websites, as servers of most of them are not in India,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.
Participants also discussed how the government could deal with the issue of language when communicating with citizens online, as a majority of Indians cannot read English. “There were also discussions of protocols that the government would follow when communicating with citizens,” said another DIT official.
Secretary of DIT, R. Chandrasekhar, said the final policy will be ready in a month.
surabhi.a@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Dec 15 2011. 10 28 PM IST