Internet Governance An Oxymoron


Kapil Sibal talks about self-regulation and freedom of expression

Censorship of the web and social media has been a topic debated on for a long time. Requests for removing content and protests against altering the internet has been a controversial topic worldwide. Where censorship could take away freedom of expression, it could also protect many from inappropriate or scandalous content (like children).

Requests to remove content from Google, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have been increasing especially in India. People are vocal about their opinion, use of language and anonymity gives a certain confidence to people. While some use it to empower, some use to disrupt. Kapil Sibal, minister of communications and IT, had his opinion on the situation.

(As told to TOI)

“The internet is necessary for India… it gives a chance for the voiceless to be heard. Internet is the most important and transformative forum. We are wedded to the freedom of expression and will do nothing to diminish that freedom. The internet does away with the concept of sovereignty.”

While his comment may have been supported by many, the youth had an argument ready for this comment. Recently students, professors and some other individuals were either arrested or harassed for their casual comments on the web about famous figures. Remember the case where two girls were arrested for posting statuses about Bal Thackeray?

The youth, many institutions, and even journalists rely on the internet to put their views forward. Misuse of the Section 66A of India’s Information Technology Act is not a new occurrence. People posting political opinions are attacked by the person in question or the supporters. People post stories, news, debates, and opinions on everything under the sun.

In India from acts against corruption to rape cases, it’s all fuelled with the power of social media. People come forward and unite on this medium. Censoring internet will give birth to brainwashing, misleading, lack of information, and lack of an interactive democracy. Instead of panicking, controversial politicians and celebrities should be interactive through this medium. A two way communication ensures trust and a fair flow of information between people.

But lack of control has its disadvantages. People use the power of internet in negative acts as well. On all social media you see photos, written pieces, and videos on controversial topics or groups. People express their hatred and ridicule the target freely. They can put false accusations, personal grudges, and explicit language towards any figure, place, or institution. Fundamentalists, racists, and narrow-minded people use this platform to target people; their intent at times jocular or malicious.

Another problem with the internet is exposure to children. There are plenty of offensive opinions, content, and graphics that can have a negative impact on young children. Although there are age restrictions on various sites, there are still various ways to get around these regulations. Anyone can access anything on the internet and there is no control on it.

Where one cannot control a vast medium like the internet, one can control the ones around them and themselves. Self-regulation is what Sibal talks about, morally aware people and maturity speaks volumes.

We as individuals should be the judge of what we and the people around us post and follow on the internet. Where we should enjoy the freedom of speech and expression, we should also know about media ethics and sensibilities.

Although Sibal’s comments may be to empower the youth, there are still many who do not trust him for his previous views on internet censorship.

With the rise of the malicious and offensive content on social sites targeting famous personalities, it’s hard to say how long the right to express online will last.

Ambika Chauhan

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