Raise your voice for Internet Freedom!
To, Hon’ble members of both Houses of the
Indian Parliament and Shri Kapil Sibal, Ministry of
Communications and Information Technology, Government of India.
We are petitioning against censorship on the internet!
The World Press Freedom Index 2013 has reported,“In India, the ‘world’s biggest democracy’, the authorities insist on censoring the web and imposing more and more taboo”
a) Criminal complaints targeting individuals for their online posts criticising politicians are on the rise. A professor from Kolkata was arrested for emailing a cartoon of the West Bengal Chief Minister. Two girls from Mumbai were arrested for a Facebook post criticizing shutdown of an entire city for the funeral of a political leader. Eminent Dalit scholar, Kamal Bharti, was arrested for his Facebook post showing support to suspended IAS Officer, Durga Shakti Nagpal.
b) In 2013 alone, the Government made social-networking websites block 1,208 URLs. This number was 8, 21 and 352 in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively!
c) Notably, Government of India ordered blocking of 73 URLs critical of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), 55 Facebook URLs related to Afzal Guru and 35 websites, mostly web forums that allow sharing of pornographic material. The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad ordered blocking of a ‘Free Kashmir’ webpage on a social networking site. A website that sought to lampoon the Gujarat Chief Minister was mysteriously taken off after having received 60,000 unique visitors in 20 hours.
d) Intermediaries were asked by the police to remove content - like a blog on a Google service or a product review on Mouthshut.com - within 36 hours of receiving a complaint or face arrest.
Loopholes in the law
Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 penalises a person with imprisonment (for three years and a fine) for sending any information on a computer resource or a communication device that is:a)‘grossly offensive’ or has a ‘menacing character’. b) That the sender knows to be false, but intends to cause ‘annoyance’, ‘inconvenience’, ‘danger’, ‘insult’, ‘injury’, ‘criminal intimidation’, ‘enmity’, ‘hatred’ and ‘ill-will’.c) That causes ‘annoyance’, ‘inconvenience’, ‘deceives’ or ‘misleads’ the recipient.
The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011, requires an intermediary (anyone who provides internet, telecom, email or blogging services, and includes cyber cafes) to ensure that:a) User content is not ‘grossly harmful’, ‘harassing’, ‘blasphemous’, ‘obscene’, ‘pornographic’, ‘paedophilic’, ‘libellous’, ‘invasive of another’s privacy’, ‘hateful,’ or ‘racially, ethnically objectionable’, ‘disparaging’, ‘relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling’, or otherwise unlawful in any manner.b) On receiving a complaint he/she is required to act within 36 hours, with or without informing the owner of such information, to disable the impugned content. The intermediary may also terminate access of the user.
The aforesaid prohibited categories are vague, ambiguous and undefined under the Information Technology Act. Consequently, it is left to the subjective interpretation of the police, the government and even private entities, who arbitrarily censor vast amount of content on the internet and file frivolous criminal cases against online content writers, bloggers, users of social networking websites and even for private communications.
Section 66A and the Intermediary Guidelines Rules violate every Indian citizen’s fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression!
WE DEMAND THAT:
a) Revise and amend Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Rule 3(2)(b) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011 to remove expressions that are vague and ambiguous.
b) Follow principles of natural justice in the prosecution of cases under the Information Technology Act, 2000.