India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

Summary: Updated laws and rules for internet and cybercafes in India are set to make life difficult for users and cafe owners. Open to interpretation verbiage can be used to curb freedom of speech on the Internet.

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TOPICS: Browser
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Considered as the world's largest democracy and freedom of speech being a fundamental piece for democracy, the updated rules for governing Internet in India are too generic for comfort. In a country driven by regional politics and politicians more than eager to make mountains out of molehills, social networking sites and bloggers have had it rather tough.

Back in 2008, Google's Orkut was at the receiving end when a user's negative comments against Congress leader Sonia Gandhi came to light. Termed as derogatory messages, there was an arrest made since Google decided to provide the cops with the user's IP address. Another regional political party went on a rampage damaging cybercafes when not so kind words were posted for their founder. In another case, reputed news anchor and Managing Editor for NDTV, Barkha Dutt served a legal notice to a blogger who called her out for what he felt was shoddy journalism during the horrific 26/11 attack on the Taj hotel in Mumbai.

All these cases bring us to the updated laws for Internet and cybercafes in India. Ambiguous verbiage in the laws has dangerous implications on freedom of speech over the Internet. As MediNama points out, the rules are stringent and vague. Left to one's interpretation of what is (politically) correct or incorrect, the ISP can be forced to bring down websites. Quoting one of the subrules in the new law:

Users shall not host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share any information that is grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner [...]

users may not publish anything that threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or or public order or causes incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence or prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any other nation.

So if I were to write something defamatory and hateful against a country's government where the world's most wanted terrorist was found despite their denial, I can get into some trouble or maybe not. If I were to write something against a political leader in India, I will most likely be taken to task for.

The updated rules for cybercafes make it difficult for cafe owners to operate since they will have to register with an agency and have to be responsible for ensuring that their equipment is not used for illegal activities. (In combination to the new laws, the cybercafe owner must ensure that no one is posting something defamatory about someone?) In addition, the cafes will have to install safety and filtering software that restrict and possibly avoid access to pornographic and obscene information. The word obscene is left to one's interpretation. In what might be a big blow to restaurants offering free WiFi to customers will also be falling under these restrictions. The registered cafes will be required to keep a copy of user identification and details such as Name, Address, Gender, Type of (authentication) document, login and logout times.

So much for freedom of speech.

Topic: Browser

Manan Kakkar

About Manan Kakkar

Telecommunication engineer with a keen interest in end-user technology and a News junkie, I share my thoughts while preparing for my Master's in Information Management.

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78 comments
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  • Hey, good to know it is not just the US where we have stupid politicians!!

    I hope I do not get arrested for my "defamatory and hateful" comment!!!
    DonnieBoy
    • India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

      @DonnieBoy For once I agree with you. And stupid politicians is kind of redundant !!!!
      1773
      • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

        @1773

        Agreed - you would think with all the money they spend, our corporations could buy us a better quality of politician.
        1DaveN
      • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

        @ DaveN_MVP:

        Well, given corporations are for-profit entities, any money they put out is going to be to help them profit more. Investing. When they buy politicians, it's not for the citizens' benefit. It's for their own.

        It's lovely to read people dislike politicians.

        It's ironic they forget that politicians can be swayed by the highest monetary influence.

        We simply have the best government that money can buy.
        HypnoToad72
    • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

      @DonnieBoy Well for once you make sense, but Politician is just another word for stupidity.
      ItsTheBottomLine
    • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

      @DonnieBoy
      I hope I don't get my PC or myself arrested, extradited, zapped, etc., for reading and perhaps agreeing with you.
      lisadeponce
    • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

      @DonnieBoy I am sorry DonnieBoy. When it comes to rogue, corrupt, incompetent, rascal politicians, India wins hands down. A*sh*** will soon take control of the Internet.
      dc20
  • ertete

    They are so nice
    please plut:yessoso com
    rtert
    maoim
  • i hate it when my equipment is "sued" for illegal activity

    LOL

    Article is spot on though. :)
    Been_Done_Before
  • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

    Anybody who still believes that Freedom of Speech exists is living in a fantasy world. Even in the United States, despite the Bill of Rights, Freedom of Speech does not exist. You can be sued or jailed for all kinds of speech that is not harmful to anyone. The rule now seems to be that everyone has the Freedom to be Offended, and offending someone else is a crime, even if it's just one person. The vocal minority is running the world.
    Unusual1
    • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

      @Unusual1 Only because of the Lawyers and even more so the Jury's... And who ends up being politicians or vice versa when the lose their office... yeah "Legal Vultures"
      ItsTheBottomLine
    • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

      @Unusual1 I am curious as to what axe you are grinding. Can you give a "theoretical" example here?
      dimonic
    • re

      @Unusual1 Examples?
      Gritztastic
    • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

      @Unusual1 , don't make he mistake of thinking that freedom of speech as Americans know the phrase is applicable anywhere else in the world. When a US citizen steps off of US territory, they leave their protected free speech behind.
      nkfro
      • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

        @nkfro Freedom of Speech in India works just like America, even better at times. Until now that is. I hope this cooks up a storm quickly and these stupid laws get squashed.
        hardeep1singh
    • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

      @Unusual1 As virtual population density increases practical freedom MUST decrease to preserve physical safety and business friendly social order. (The Internet shortens effective interpersonal distances making it necessary to add virtual). Unfortunately the avearge human animal is slow to adapt to tight spaces and becomes more and more aggressive as the ability to escape social pressures diminishes.n Unfortunate but true.
      wellduh
    • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

      @Unusual1 I understand your frustration, but saying that you don't have freedom of expression in the U.S. is a bit of a stretch. You've no idea what happens outside, say in India. This Internet thing is new, but it's not new to have thugs from a political party ransacking, rioting, stone pelting as a protect. There is no comparison. You guys have a lot better.
      dc20
    • RE: India's new Internet laws go against fundamental right to freedom of speech

      @Unusual1 Have you heard some of the comedians such as Bill Maher shooting off his mouth on any subject. No one would dare talk like that in India against even a local politician. He would be a dead man.
      dc20
  • Previews of coming attractions...here

    Previews of coming attractions in the USA...I am sure somewhere in D.C. right now they are or have been studying this fascist crap hoping to implement something similar here.
    Ricardus
  • I don't think the Indian government wants freedom of speech.

    India is over-regulated. They are stuck with a Victorian British beauracracy they inherited over 60 years ago from the colonial power. I think too many beaurocrats have an interest in increasing their own power and don't like being criticised or having their activities advertised. Their answer is to regulate everything...in India "Civil Servant" has become sematically "Civil Master"...
    scoleman@...