18 February 2019

[Link] The Cumulative Effect of Recent Internet Regulation

My colleague, Sidharth Chopra, and I write about recent regulatory measures in light of how 'combination of social control and economic protectionism could assist in keeping the citizens in check by chilling speech and encouraging self-censorship'.
Pro-protectionist arguments for Internet regulation, particularly from Indian industry, can seem reasonable at first glance. Unfortunately, in their fine print, these arguments often say less about “Indians benefitting” than they do about “keeping non-Indians out” which, of course, assumes, without any demonstrable basis, that threats to Indians primarily come from beyond the country’s borders.
Such arguments are, essentially, the result of real-world fallacies being transposed on to the digital realm completely oblivious not only of how interconnected the world now is to everyone’s benefit, and but also oblivious of what most threatens individual Indians: the invasion of privacy and the impingement of free speech. Issues and not actors.
Purely commercial considerations aside, the worldview from which advocacy for such enhanced regulation emerges is, at best, insular and, at worst, xenophobic. It isn’t at all surprising that its expression is often accompanied by articulations of nationalism. After all, insularity and nationalism tend to complement each other.
What is at stake here is not just a decision as to the viability of a set of soporific rules but a decision as to the kind of society we want to continue as. Whether we aim for social control and perhaps homogenisation, or whether we continue to celebrate the plurality and freedom embedded in the Constitution. We have a choice to make and we would do well not to make it lightly, or to allow it to be made for us while we look away.
This article was published at Medianama on February 11, 2019, and at Bar and Bench on February 12, 2019.

(This post is by Nandita Saikia and was first published at IN Content Law.)


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