India Restricts Free Speech Online

Information Management, July-August 2011 | Go to article overview

India Restricts Free Speech Online


New Indian regulations restrict Internet content that may be considered "disparaging," "harassing," "blasphemous," or "hateful."

The new rules, called the Information Technology Rules (2011), were quietly issued by India's Department of Information Technology. They allow officials and citizens to request that websites and service providers remove content considered objectionable based on a long list of criteria, according to The New York Times.

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That list includes anything that "threatens the unity, integrity, defense, security, or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order."

While fewer than 10% of Indians currently have Internet access, that percentage is increasing quickly because of widespread use of mobile devices. The Times reported there are more than 700 million cell phone accounts in India.

Even before the new rules, India restricted speech on the Internet. For example, Indian officials have required social networking sites like Orkut to remove posts deemed offensive to ethnic and religious groups.

However, the new Internet rules go further than existing Indian laws and restrictions, according to Sunil Abraham, the executive director for the Center for Internet and Society. …

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