- Internet & the Web
Could WEB Of Freedom Be Compromised?
This topic of net neutrality is on the lips of all youngsters these days cutting across all geographical or demographical barriers. Internet is the open source space where you can exchange information keeping yourself anonymous, one of many and where others cannot recognize you. Especially for youth internet represent freedom with license to publish your talent; with higher probability of getting instantaneous name and fame (read as Justine Bieber, Miley Cyrus etc.). So any compromise to internet freedom has direct impact on present society which has very broad base in virtual world.
Subjective interpretation of 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000?
The most controversial part of the Act is the punitive action that can be taken if anyone found spreading as quoted by SC “by means of a computer resource or a communication device, any information that is grossly offensive or has a menacing character”. ‘Grossly offensive’ is subjective term totally depend on person’s perception. Based on such subjective interpretation one cannot be held responsible for spreading abuse and hatred among compatriots. So giving someone arbitrary authority to decide and take action which could be highly biased based on his/her own perception is unfortunate.
Does that mean no need for any action?
As discussed above “regulating web by law” or “controlling information flow on internet” can have detrimental effect. The most recent global event attracting everybody’s attention was the attack on the staff of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by so called ‘Muslim extremists’. The magazine exercised their freedom of expression by publishing the cartoon of Prophet Mohammad, abiding by the law of the land. Occurrences of such incident indicate the impending action required to be taken to control the situation before it got out of control. So the inevitable question is ‘Should there be an extent to which online freedom can be exercised?’ But answering this question itself is quiet controversial as the genuine answer would require intervention by the government and regulation of the internet.
There is no absolute answer to this question as one condition is just opposite to another. Solving one means compromising the other. Therefore we have to reach to a consensus, self-regulation, determine self-imposed restriction and freedom that do not hurt others. We should look forward to the rules of engagement, where consensus of all the participating parties be it telecom providers or the internet user or civil society / government. Consensus is the way forward.
As we all know when freedom of one overlaps with other conflict is inevitable. Limitless freedom in itself contains inbuilt conflict that can only be solved by consensus and understanding. Intervention by the government with more rigid rules and regulation will only curb ones freedom and restrict the full potential of such an amazing open source platform for exchange of ideas. The ability of each of us to accept our responsibility toward other fellow being could only end this crisis. We should not only see