Facebook, Google, Twitter and other web firms are facing pressure from the Indian authorities to censor their sites for content which may defame the government or offend religious sensibilities.
According to reports, Indian telecoms and IT minister Kapil Sibal met executives from a number of social media companies on Monday to ask them to screen content more rigorously.
However, Sibal has since denied that he was trying to promote government-led censorship, suggesting instead that it is the duty of social media companies to remove the content.
"I suggested that platforms should evolve mechanisms of their own to ensure that such content is removed as soon as they get to know of it," said Sibal.
"It has been brought to my notice that images and statements on platforms like Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like, hold subject matter that is so offensive that it would hurt the religious sentiments of large sections of communities."
A report in The New York Times on Monday said that Sibal first started the discussions with social media companies over a month ago when he saw a Facebook page that insulted Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi.
Facebook has issued a response to Sibal's social media clean-up suggestions, arguing that it already has policies in place that allow people to report abusive content, but that it is prepared to engage with the Indian government to further debate the issue.
"We will remove any content that violates our terms, which are designed to keep material that is hateful, threatening, incites violence or contains nudity off the service," noted a Facebook statement.
"We recognise the government's interest in minimising the amount of abusive content that is available online, and will continue to engage with the Indian authorities."
Twitter declined to comment on the situation, but reiterated its strong support for freedom of speech and said that it disagrees with censoring content on the site.
Google, meanwhile, said that it will take down any content deemed illegal under local law.
"We work really hard to make sure that people have as much access to information as possible, while also following the law. And even where content is legal, but violates our own terms and conditions, we take that down too, once we've been notified," the firm said in a statement.
"But when content is legal and doesn't violate our policies, we won't remove it just because it's controversial, as we believe that people's differing views, so long as they're legal, should be respected and protected."
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