Internet Freedom In India…Going Bad To Worse!
Before I talk about India’s internet freedom being bad, please keep in mind it is quite relative. We are better than most countries in the world, where there is absolutely no internet freedom from citizens.
We, the Indians, should count ourselves lucky that we live in a democratic country where we have freedom of speech and expression, which is not the case in many other countries. Having said that, we also need to understand that our freedom on things like internet is progressively getting worse according to the latest Freedom House report.
According to latest FH report for 2013, rather than improving on internet freedom, India has actual seen a drop in their ratings. The report puts India into “Partially Free” category rather than a “fully free” category.
Compared to 2012, India has fallen on all 3 aspects of that govern internet freedom. The report specifically pointed out incidences where many content blocks were done supposedly targeting inflammatory content. Between May 2012 and April 2013 atleast 11 people were charged under section 66 of IT amendment act for posts on social media.
One of the main reasons why India is getting worse in rankings is due to the fact that IT act granted the Govt power to block any content in interest of defense, national security, sovereignty, friendly relations with foreign states and public order. Though, there is nothing wrong in doing so, the ambiguous nature of section 66 can put any or every citizen publishing content on the internet under the purview of this rule.
The report also identified many cases where local courts directly gave orders of blocking content ex parte – meaning they hear only one side of the case and do the ruling for blocking the content. Also, in many cases, though a particular url on a website is supposed to be blocked, the entire website is blocked by the ISP.
From internet users’ side, the entire process is not transparent and they come to know about these blocks only after encountering the error message on the blocked website.
Overall, it is not that Indian Govt is too severely forcing restrictions on internet users, but various entities take advantage of loopholes in ambiguous Section 66 of IT act to block content, thereby restricting freedom of Indian citizens on the internet.