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Facebook Row – A Step Towards Online Censorship in India

On the day Kasab was hanged, the Facebook was buzz with the Post “I guess Kasab posted something really really offensive on Facebook”. I personally view the recent Facebook row as a 1st step towards Online Censorship in India. Be it arrest of 2 young women in Mumbai over a Facebook post on Bal Thackeray or arrest of 2 Air India employees for their Facebook Posts on Politicians.

India is a very diverse country. Expression of views or opinion on a particular topic might be the case of Freedom of Speech for one person but it might hurt sentiments of another group. In India, there is no clear cut definition of Freedom of Speech. Everyone interpret Freedom of Speech according to his or her inconvenience. It depends on which side i am standing and what suits my personal interests. Till now, On records Govt has maintained that there is no Online Censorship in India but if we believe recent news reports or Google statistics then its hard to believe that.

In the Pre-Internet era the “Right of Speech” rests only with media & it was easy to control the Freedom of Speech. After internet is flooded with Social Networking sites, Govt is finding difficult to monitor the same as “Anyone can Post Anything from Anywhere”. With internet revolution, its time to revisit Online Censorship in India.

One thing is for sure that Online Censorship in India is here to stay whether we like it or not. Reason being large scale misuse of Freedom of Speech by one section of society. At the same time it is very important to educate people on boundaries of Freedom of Speech. Open definition of Freedom of Speech is neither going to help Government nor People of India. Fixing boundaries of Freedom of Speech is not possible without active support of Media becoz Media has habit of passing judgement without trial. We can take case of MF Hussian, Aseem Trivedi or recent arrests over Facebook posts. Media passed judgement without understanding the sentiments of people and Govt has its own limitations, it cannot go against media for obvious reasons. Govt charged Aseem Trivedi of Sedition and under the fire from Media, all charges were withdrawn against him. It was like war of supremacy between Media and Govt. At last Govt was embarrassed as all cases were dropped against Aseem Trivedi. In the case of arrest of 2 young women’s arrest in Mumbai, again the Govt action came under fire from Media & both were released. Media always take shelter of Freedom of Speech and not ready to discuss Online Censorship in India.

Lastly, our enforcement agencies are also not capable of handling these kind of cases as they are only puppet in hands of politicians. Though there is a separate Cyber Cell within Police Department but officers are deputed from within Police Department who are not capable of handling such cases. A separate independent autonomous cell should be created & officers should be specially trained on Cyber Crime.

Only solution to handle this problem is that Govt should notify list of Do’s and Don’ts not only for Social Networking Sites but in General also so that People should not feel harassed. It should not be considered as any kind of Online Censorship in India but General Guidelines to avoid any backlash from section of society. By fixing boundaries of Freedom of Speech, it will be easy for law enforcement agencies to act. I am doubtful that Media will support any such initiative becoz of its own vested interests. Through this post, I am exercising my Freedom of Speech.

Copyright © 2011-2012 Nitin Bhatia. All Rights Reserved.

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