Washington: The US on Thursday advised India to ensure Internet freedom while seeking to preserve national security, as the Indian government asked social networking websites to check pages carrying inflammatory messages.
"As the Indian government seeks to preserve security, we are urging them also to take into account the importance of freedom of expression in the online world," State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters at her daily news conference.
Nuland was responding to questions on news reports that the Indian government was asking Twitter to block some accounts that have been allegedly responsible for spreading rumours or false information that fanned unrest in the country following riots in Assam.
"Our understanding is that the Indian government is working with a number of our companies - Google, Facebook and now Twitter. We stand ready to be helpful if we can, as we always do with our companies, in those conversations," she said.
Nuland said these companies are talking to the Indian government about application of Indian law within the context of Internet freedom.
"The general principle of respect for freedom of expression, respect for the unique characteristics of the online environment, needs to be respected, even as they work through whether there are things these companies can do to help calm the environment," she said.
Fundamentally, freedom of expression on the Internet has been a keystone issue for US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
"We discuss it in terms of human rights and universal freedoms. We look to work with our companies and with governments around the world to protect and preserve an open environment. We don't support, as you know, sort of global efforts to restrict or nationalise the Internet," she said.
"That said, that we also would always have concerns about incitement and hate speech and this kind of thing. So it's always a balance, but in general, we want to see a free and open Internet, and we want to see our companies have a good dialogue with governments that they follow it as an issue, and they follow it as a political issue, they follow it as a press freedom issue, and they make themselves available to our companies in the instances where they are concerned," Nuland said.