Image credits: Brian J Matls and it is copyrighted under CC 2.0
This article will be useful for mains(GS4-Information technology). Why again internet censorship? Even a week ago, 32 famous sites including Daily motion, Vimeo and Github were blocked to avoid the spread of Jihahid Propaganda by ISIS. Netizens and Internet rights activists condemned this move. After all, India is a democratic country. Our constitution provides us freedom of speech and expression. Those sites were used by normal people too. You can’t block the entire site, if someone spreads derogatory or messages that promotes terrorism. Of course, Terrorism has to be curbed but not at the cost of grabbing ordinary citizen’s right. Internet censorship has been implemented for several reasons in India. Lets discuss some of them in brief.
It is the one of the common reasons cited by the government to block many file sharing sites. Until now, more than 100 file sharing sites have been blocked in India due to Piracy.
2. National Security
Cyber terrorism is becoming more harmful threat for national security. Now,Terrorists are using Sophisticated technology in terror attacks. What actually is Cyber terrorism? It is not well defined but the broader definition of them deals with usage of Information and Technology for disturbing the National Integrity and Sovereignty. Why cyber terrorism is a threat to national security?In the modern Era, Everything from your personal computer to military network is connected to Internet or outside world. Any one can use them for achieving their personal or political objectives. They can also spread hatred message or rumors that can disturb the communal balance in India through internet. They can instill fear in our mind though cyber attacks. We can discuss about cyber terrorism in Separate article soon(because we are diverting fro our topic).
3. Hate speech
Here comes the soul of our topic. This is the most controversial part of the Internet censorship. Many youngsters are arrested in recent year due to hatred speech in social media. Government not only removes their message but also arrests them under 66A of Information Technology Act. What does this act deals with? What 66A of this act deals with? Information technology act was enacted in 2000 to deal with cyber crimes(Cyber crimes are crimes that are done with the help of any device or technology). As Information technology act,2000 covers only little cyber crimes. They are amended in 2008 to cover more cyber crimes. One of the provisions that included in the amended was 66A which deals with sending or posting Hatred, Defamatory, Derogatory, False,Annoying , Inconvenient, Misleading and Grossly offensive messages with the use of computing device or communication devices.Anyone does the above thing are liable to prosecution and may get imprisonment up to 3 years with fine. Why this provision is controversial? Many internet rights activists see 66A of IT act as unconstitutional and they claim 66A brags their freedom of speech. Following is the screenshot of this provision.
SC rulings on 66A: Many PIL has been filed with supreme court and they plead to declare 66A as arbitrary and Unconstitutional since there are many vague terms in this provision such as Grossly offensive or menacing character. In march 2014, SC has ruled no person can be arrested under 66A without the permission of a officer who is not under the rank of inspector general of police. It ruled to prevent the misuse of the act. Few months after this rulings, another bench of SC also favored internet activists by ruling that the person cannot be arrested under 66A for the sole reason of message causing Inconvenience or message is annoying.
According to Facebook transparency report,4960 contents have be restricted in Facebook from January 2014 to June 2014 due to the request of the Indian government. That makes the India rank number one in Facebook censorship.
Recently, A PIL has been filed on the supreme court to block porn sites. The case is pending, It seems that the government is serious about blocking porn sites. Someone consider this as an active move as it will decrease the rape rates as the can claim more sex offence are due to watching porn. Some other people may see this as negative move. According to some experts, Government has double standards on this issue because government is considering for legalization and regulation of prostitution on the other hand it plans to block porn sites. Still now, no site has been banned due to pornography.In India watching adult pornography is legal while distributing it is illegal and watching and distributing child pornography is illegal. So they don’t have legal sanction to block porn sites.
Is 66A justified?
Of course, it is justified. But, In order to prevent misuse of the act, precise definition of the act is needed. interpret ion of this provision should be done based on the Court’s guidelines. Till now court has not framed any guidelines, so it would be better, if court has framed guidelines. Freedom of speech like any other right has some restrictions. Our freedom of speech should not contempt court’s order, disturb the communal balance, disturb India’s international relations,defame anyone, incite any offence, disturb the integrity and sovereignty of India and it should be decent and derogate any one’s character. Critical analysis of some one cannot be taken as hatred speech. As we are living in democratic country, we do have rights to tell our opinion without infringing other’s rights.
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