After directing YouTube to pull down objectionable video links of IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, the government Thursday sent out a stern warning to social media firms not to allow their platforms to be abused for "weakening the morale of the country". "The Indian democracy celebrates freedom of expression and ideas but in the light of the current situation, we expect social media (companies) to ensure that their platforms are not allowed to be abused by putting such videos that are designed to weaken the morale of the country," IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said after the Cabinet briefing.
He added that the government expects social media platforms to act more responsibly and address such issues with urgency. Prasad said following a directive from the Home Ministry, the IT Ministry had sent a notice to Google-owned YouTube to remove 11 links of "humiliating videos" pertaining to Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
These videos were removed following the directive, he added.
"I appeal to social media players that while the government is in favour of freedom of expression, their platforms should not be allowed to be misused," he asserted.
Varthaman's MiG 21 was shot and he was captured by Pakistan during an air combat on Wednesday. Earlier Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Varthaman would be released on Friday as a "peace gesture".
When contacted, a Google (which runs YouTube) spokesperson said the company complies with "valid legal requests from authorities wherever possible, consistent with our longstanding policy and act quickly to remove such material". "Data on government requests to remove content from Google services is regularly updated in our transparency report," the spokesperson added.
Videos of the captured Indian Air Force pilot were being released on the internet and netizens shared these videos across social media platforms like Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. Hashtags like #BringbackAbhinandan, #SayNoToWar, #MiG21, #F16 and #PakFakeClaim were trending as netizens from both the sides of border turned to social media to express their views.