Stricter Indian internet laws 'threaten human rights'
The new rules were designed in keeping with India’s law on internet freedom after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. The law allowed authorities to closely monitor communications through the internet if national security was in danger.
The revised law, the Information Technology Rules 2011, now also allows authorities to shut down web sites that offer disparaging, harassing, blasphemous or hateful content.
“Anyone who finds certain web content objectionable now has the right to have that site shut down or to have the content removed. You would think that there would be a legal authority that would screen any complaint, but the new law stipulates that such an authority is not necessary. It’s incredible, really.”
“It is a threat to human rights and human rights defenders. Web sites may not be able to publish anything anymore that is critical of the government or authorities, as they'll be afraid that they'll be shut down by their opponents. It’s a worrying development.”
Mr Oonk is now worried that his organisation, which at times is critical towards Indian authorities and businesses, might now face more court cases, as the new law can also affect foreign web sites.
“Criteria such as 'disparaging, hateful or blasphemous' are so broad that they can be interpreted to come down on a lot of critical information and opinions. In fact, according to these loose descriptions it’s possible to call anything hateful if you want to. So it might become easier to have something taken off a website.”
Mr Oonk acknowledges that. “But here, there’s always the judge who ultimately decides whether web content is crossing a line or not. Any complaint should have legal ground. In India, under the new rules, that judicial step doesn’t exist.”