Department of Internet Control: Creating Jobs by Screening Social Content

“Take the first left after the third signal from here” my South Indian friend Swami said to the person asking him directions in cold Delhi over hot coffee.

“This is the 10th car since morning asking me for the address of the Ministry of Human Resources or Ministry of Information Technology” remarked Swami. “Looks like there is some conference or job fair. Any idea what the reason is?” he further inquired.

“Yes – I know why they are here. Google, Facebook, Ebay, Yahoo, Twitter and so many others – I saw a big queue this morning” said my broker Jigneshbhai, fiddling with his newly bought Android Smartphone.  “They are here to present their case to the authorities that they cannot possibly regulate what users post online. There is some new law coming up to screen everything online – right? They have to make sure their businesses don’t shut down” he explained further, with the expertness of someone familiar with the subject.

“Maybe he knows better” he continued, pointing sarcastically to Swami.

“Of course, you all these social networking high-tech types don’t understand and just keep chatting nonsense on freedom. Our ministers are just doing their jobs. In fact governments – even in the US – are doing their jobs” said Swami, nonchalantly, not realizing that he was fraying some nerves.

“And their job is to control freedom of expression?” a caustic Jigneshbhai said.

“Arre no, their job is to enable employment creation!” a cool Swami replied confidently.

I am not majorly into these social networking and internet stuff, but I must say, they seem useful at times, and fun too. Some of them are indeed good for businesses, I had heard. Hence, I must admit that I was unable to quite understand how Swami could say something like this. Seated next to me, Jigneshbhai was positively wild.

Seeing our reactions, Swami decided to explain.

“Governments know which sectors can provide growth for the future; they know how to create rules and regulations that create jobs. Who do you think will do the monitoring – whether or not technology is there? In order to remove the digital divide in India, to provide knowledge-based work to our millions of youth, for inclusive growth, what better than providing them jobs to go through online content and report culturally sensitive stuff?”

“And online content is only going to increase. Imagine what kind of potential this holds when people start posting culturally-sensitive stuff in local languages too!”

Swami seemed completely convinced of the possibilities. Neglecting our surprised looks, he continued passionately.

“If the companies don’t hire people to monitor content, governments can set up a regulatory authority and give people secure jobs. You see – governments all over the world know that people want jobs, and that’s what they are doing. And you guys are cribbing about freedom of expression!”

Listening to this explanation and theory from Swami, I was not quite sure how to react. I thought my broker friend is either getting ready to bash up my South Indian friend, or go buy some stocks that will benefit from this new wave of internet regulation jobs.

But just then, he felt a stick on his shoulders. Turning around, I saw that a Delhi police constable had just tapped Jigneshbhai and asked him what he was doing on his phone. “Sir, nothing, just checking email” he explained with a bit of trepidation.

Sensing trouble, we got up to leave – perhaps we had got on the wrong side of law. But with a stern warning, the constable showed his ID and said, “Hum Internet Control Department se hai. Idhar Delhi Parliament area mein mobile par yeh social networking karna allowed nahi hai. 500 rupaye ka fine hai. Receipt faad lu?”

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