Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Internet Censorship In India

Internet in India is under potential threat of censorship and e-surveillance. Internet censorship in India has increased a lot. Similarly, e-surveillance in India has also increased to intolerable limits.

India has a draconian but cyber criminals’ friendly cyber law in the form of information technology act, 2000 (IT Act 2000). It was amended in 2008 to confer unregulated e-surveillance, Internet censorship and website blocking powers to Indian government and its agencies. The present cyber law of India is an unconstitutional one in the absence of procedural safeguards that can prevent these abusive draconian powers under the IT Act 2000. It requires an urgent repeal.

On top of it we have the proposed central monitoring system (CMS) project of India that has been proposed without any parliamentary oversight. Further, stress upon Internet kill switch is also given by India without realising that Internet kill switch is not a solution to cyber threats. Anti Internet kill switch measures are needed to prevent Indian government from taking recourse of any such unconstitutional and draconian action.

Website blocking and Internet censorship should be resisted as far as possible in India. This fight should be techno legal in nature where both technical and legal measures must be adopted to thwart surveillance and censorship activities of Indian government and its agencies. Proactive self defence in cyberspace is needed not only against alien enemies but also against our own Orwellian government.

Self defence in cyberspace is a concept whose time has come at both national and international level. At the national level of India self defence is required not only against cyber criminals but also against our own over zealous and e-surveillance oriented Indian government. Suggestions have been given in the past that United Nations (UN) must protect human rights in cyberspace as well. However, UN is not serious about protecting human rights in cyberspace.

At the national level, Indian government acquired itself unregulated, illegal and unconstitutional e-surveillance, Internet censorship and website blocking powers with no procedural safeguards. The information technology act, 2000 (IT Act 2000) was amended through the information technology amendment act 2008 (IT Act 2008) and this amendment gave unconstitutional and illegal powers to Indian government and its agencies. With the notification of the IT Act, 2008, the journey from welfare state to a police state was completed for India.

Instances of website blocking in India and Internet censorship in India have increased a lot. What is more worrisome is the fact that e-surveillance and Internet censorship in India have increased without any lawful interception law in India. Lawful interception law in India is missing and phone tapping in India is done in an unconstitutional manner.

Of all e-surveillance project, nothing is worst than the Aadhar project of India and its implementing unique identification authority of India (UIDAI) headed by Nandan Nilekani. Irrespective of what Nandan Nilekani and Indian government says, Aadhar project and UIDAI are serving a very vicious, evil and nefarious objective of e-surveillance without procedural safeguards. Surprisingly, even Google is censoring results pertaining to Aadhar project and UIDAI and is messing up with search placement results.

Now Internet intermediaries in India have been asked to pre screen contents before they are posted on their platforms by the account holders. India wants companies like Google and Facebook to censor users’ contents. In fact, Goggle web censorship has greatly increased in the past. Perhaps somebody at Google was already doing the pre screening of some web contents in India, with or without knowledge of Google.

Google has been in controversies from time to time. Whether it is illegal data gathering, censorship of Google news searches, manipulation of search results, etc, Google has been doing it all. In fact, it seems Google was actively helping Indian government and its agencies for messing up with Aadhar project, UIDAI, World Bank or any other similar post that questions the wrong practices of Indian government. During that period Google continued its censorship drive in India and many posts failed to appear in news, blogs and search segments.

What Internet intermediaries are facing now is a direct result of their succumbing to Indian government pressure and unconstitutional laws like IT Act 2008. They should have challenged the constitutional validity of IT Act 2008 that is the root cause of all these troubles. Fortunately Yahoo took Indian government to court over e-surveillance and more such litigations are expected in the near future. Let us see how cyber law of India would develop in this regard.