Internet Censorship drives business out of India

The Twitter Transparency Report is reported to have indicated that during the last 6 months of 2012, Twitter received two requests covering 16 accounts demanding for removal of content. One of the requests was from a Court and the other from the Government. Twitter also received 10 requests (from officials) for user information during the period. Twitter has refused all requests since they were deficient in information.

According to the Twitter report, the website received 42 requests to remove content or accounts worldwide in the last two quarters compared to just 6 in the first half of 2012. The number of requests seeking information about users was also up. In last six months Twitter received 1009 such requests compared to 849 in the first half of 2012. The number of copyright notices was, however, down from 3378 to 3268.

The website received highest number of censor requests from France that targeted 40 accounts. United Kingdom was second as it targeted 25 accounts while Brazil, which targeted 22 accounts, was third. India was fourth. In terms of number of requests, Brazil topped the list with 16 requests.

It appears that the failure to get the content removed had prompted the Indian Government to consider blocking of the Twitter accounts through the ISPs. Obviously this report does not refer to the action taken by the Police in arresting Twitter users for objectionable content.

The report provides a clear indication that worldwide the Governments are moving towards Internet Censorship. It is for the Netizens to recognize the trend and organize themselves to meet this assault on their freedom.

The Twitter’s refusal to provide information easily to Government will be seen as a strength by the Internet freedom lovers and is bound to enhance its popularity.  While many entrepreneurs in India are trying to set up business competing with Twitter or Facebook, their success will depend on their attitude to “Privacy”.

In the absence of a “Privacy Act’, at present Indian entrepreneurs need to follow the prescriptions under ITA 2008. When a proper notice is received under ITA 2008, the website which is considered an “Intermediary” has to take action to either release the account holder’s information or remove the content. Otherwise they face the prospect of being held criminally liable.

We may also recall that in the recent Headlines Today interview, Mr Kapil Sibal made a mild threat that he may introduce a law to make user identity disclosure compulsory for Twitter type accounts. Given the propensity of the Indian Police to misuse law, User’s may therefore feel unsafe to use Indian micro blogging websites or Indian social networking websites. This attitude is likely to shift Social Networking and Micro Blogging website business out of India to countries where “Privacy Standards” are strong. This is an adverse impact of the current Government policy.

In this context the call for an All India Forum of Netizens (www.aifon.org.in) becomes even more relevant.

Naavi

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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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