Here’s an interesting chart that plots the internet penetration vs. internet freedom of various countries:

India surprisingly fares well on the freedom scale. I suspect that is because politicians and babus are yet figuring out the internet. We have much less freedom in real life in India as opposed to our online lives. The things we say online could get us into trouble if we said those in a non-online medium. For instance, I could without consequence say that Shivaji Maharaj was likely gay and no one would care because sainiks don’t patrol the internet as much as patrol Hallmark stores. But imagine if I said the same thing to another person on a street and a sainik overheard it.

I could write here that our Constitution has many flaws. Anupam Kher allegedly said something on those lines and faced a privilege motion.

The internet is a leveller in that Indians residing in India assume they have the same rights and laws governing them as a compatriot tweeting or blogging from the United States. That’s not true and it is vital to understand the differences. I could say nasty things about the Prophet Mohammad sitting here in the U.S. and not worry about legal action (To be clear, I’m not saying anything nasty. I’m just saying I could. Please don’t kill me.). In India, I wouldn’t be protected by law: I hurt someone’s religious sentiments.

Take a look at some proposed additions to the Information Technology Act. The folks proposing these are from another era altogether. They deem content of the following nature illegal:

harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, blasphemous, objectionable, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever

That’s every other post at this blog.

Our law has many loopholes in free speech, prostitution, alcohol consumption, libel, religion. The only use of those is misuse. Meanwhile, we continue to add ambiguous laws for misuse.

We need to create enough noise* about this in the online world so anyone walking in (celebrities, journalists, politicians on Twitter) sees it and becomes a voice in the real world. Let us hope we get to keep our online freedoms.

*Please just make sure the noise is democratic, principled and isn’t any sort of theoretical blackmail or satyagraha. You will get much online support.

***

Thanks Mukta.

Advertisements