The Internet is going through a lot of rapid changes globally and many Governments are trying to make sense of how best they can can curb piracy, anti-social and anti-nationalist sentiments coming from citizens. The web can be overwhelming for authorities because this is something they have repeatedly failed to control ever since its inception.
According to Bridget Welsh, a Political Science Professor at the University of Singapore, the proposed curbing of Social Media websites by the Indian Government may result in the lowering India’s position on Internet freedom. Welsh have knowledge of the yet-to-be published Freedom on Internet Report 2012, which ranks countries according to their Internet Policies. Social Media services and networks allow Individuals to speak their mind in an open forum and as far as we are concerned, curbing such a freedom is a gross violation of a person’s civil rights.
Some months back, Kapil Sibal managed to incite outrage from all the Indian citizens on Social Media by suggesting that the Government should be monitored and therefore censor ‘objectionable’ content.
What is the definition of ‘objectionable content’? Isn’t this too broad a category? While most of us agree that things like Child pornography and Piracy are definitely objectionable, this proposal if it saw the light of day would simply let the ruling Government tag anything against it as objectionable, even dissent and criticism which is perfectly legal. Satire is an important part of critiquing anything. Making fun of the current state of affairs in a country is effective in showing ruling authorities where it has screwed up. How does that become objectionable?
Understandably, the outrage over this proposal made Kapil Sibal realize that he had kicked up a storm and then decided to tone things down by saying that Social Media would not be censored. Criminal Lawsuits have been filed against Facebook and Google in Indian Courts for hosting content which is considered objectionable by the lone complainant who may probably not even understand how content sharing and hosting work in a modern sense.
Google and Facebook make platforms for people to share their thoughts. In fact, Google and Facebook are working extra hard to automatically screen out stuff which infringe their policies. What Governments need to realize is the fact that no one can control the spread of ideas and thoughts in an increasingly connected world and they shouldn’t even try to go that way. Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google thinks that the restrictions on the web are just too much and thus could negatively impact the growth of the Internet.
All of these restrictions are affecting our country’s openness on the Internet and this is a serious issue since we consider ourselves the World’s biggest democracy. According to the Freedom on Internet Report 2011, India ranked 14th among the 37 nations that were considered to be partly-free on the Internet. These nations had a score of 36 which indicates that they have some restrictions in place against the usage of Internet from the ruling authorities. The report ranks countries from 0 to 100. Zero means completely free and 100 is lowest amount of Freedom. India’s position last year is not so bad at all and instead of working on improving it, we are taking steps downwards.
This is all thanks to overzealous policies and thoughts by people in Government and other regulatory bodies who are not really clued in to the Web and Social Media revolution. Are these people really qualified to take those decisions? The Web belongs to the Internet generation and its usage should only be regulated by ‘users’ and not geriatrics.
The report is likely to be released in August this year and hopefully will make the Indian Government realize that the Internet is a fundamental right and not a privilege! Not happy with the way Internet freedom is perceived in the country?
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