#India- Here is why section #66A does not ‘protect’ women #FOE #Censorship


by  , FIRSTPOST Dec 12, 2012

One of the arguments Union Minister for Communication, Information and Technology, Kapil Sibal, often gives to justify Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act is that it is an essential tool in fighting the online harassment of women. “Many kinds of threats can be given on the Internet which cannot be given on a normal communication network. Therefore, the nature of the law has to be different,” reiterated the minister in an interview to NDTV in November 2012.

Online harassment is indeed a serious problem for women. In April this year, for instance, Chennai based writer and activist Meena Kandasamy found herself at the receiving end of sexually charged verbal abuse and threats of violence in response to a 15 April tweet, which said: “Was at the Osmania university beef eating festival. Awesome experience in spite of violence by ABVP.”

In reactionary tweets, totaling more than a hundred, she was called a variety of names including “bitch,” “whore,” and “terrorist.”

“Bloody bitch, u shud be gang raped and telecasted live. That will be awesome experience (sic),” was an example of one such tweet by @sidhh 108.

In October, singer Chinmayi Sripada lodged a complaint with Chennai police that she was getting casteist and vulgar comments about both her and her mother from six twitter handles. “Most of my tweets were misquoted to give a feeling that I am against Tamil, Tamil Tweeters and bloggers and also against Sri Lankan Tamils. Some even started tagging me on Facebook,” Sripada told The Hindu.

This threatening online environment is an extension of real life in terms of the attitude towards the fairer sex. “Just like in real life, women are expected not to comment online about political issues or anything which needs application of the brain. Signs of struggle of power between two genders are very much visible online,” says Vidyut Kale, a Mumbai based blogger, who has received cuss words, rape and death threats. “By the way, education has got nothing to with it,” she adds.

Reuters

While the Internet can be a hostile place for both sexes, women face additional sexist abuse in a way that men do not. “Trans people who have written both as male and female bloggers, for example, have reported a sharp difference between the two in terms of the abuse they received, and the way in which attacks became more personalised and gender-based after blogging as a woman. There certainly is a trend here,” says Dr Anja Kovacs of the Internet Democracy Project, a Delhi based initiative for online freedom of speech which is conducting a study on online harassment.

However, Sibal is wrong to cite online abuse of women as a justification for section 66A of IT Act, which advocates of online freedom of speech claim is a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease.

Moreover, when section 66A was inserted into the IT Act in 2008, the purpose was not to safeguard women from abuse or stalking. According to Kiran Karnik, former president of NASSCOM and member of the expert committee which suggested changes in the IT Act, the amendments proposed by the expert committee were benign, but the Parliamentary standing committee made the law much tighter in its over-enthusiasm.

“Things were added on the pretext of taking care of spam, defamation and that gave huge power to security agencies,” Karnik told NDTV.

Thus, Kapil Sibal’s ‘protect our women’ argument is a post facto and expedient rationale for the amendments.

The argument is also not based on any kind of supporting evidence, and for one simple reason: the government does not maintain any data on the number of complaints filed by women under section 66A.

Except for the case of Chinmayi Sripada — where the police took action against two men allegedly harassing her — there are few other known cases where a woman has taken recourse to section 66A to fight cyber abuse.

In stark contrast, there are many cases illustrating the misuse of 66A: the arrests of cartoonist Aseem Trivedi for lampooning national symbols on his website and Professor of Jatavpur university for mocking Mamata Banerjee on Facebook, the detention of a Puducherry businessman for tweeting that Karti Chidambaram has amassed more wealth than Robert Vadra, and the infamous Palghar case where two girls were arrested under section 66A because they believed that the death of Bal Thackeray did not call for a city-wide bandh.

“After the Shaheen Dada and Rinu Srinivasan case, we know it [66A] is not protecting women, it is jailing some of them who speak. I doubt if anyone who is flaunting Hindutva and threatening gang rape and butchering or calling for a Hindu style fatwa on a writer is going to be going to jail anytime soon,” says Kandasamy.

Therefore, even if we take into consideration Sibal’s argument that Internet is a different beast which wields much more power than traditional media and hence we need a separate law, 66A is so vaguely worded that it can be used at will — not to protect women but to punish those who speak out. If the intent is to crack down on online abuse, then the law has to be sharply and
narrowly defined, and in a way that it does not infringe on the freedom of speech.

Besides, there are many provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deal with similar offences against women, points out Delhi based lawyer Apar Gupta. “IPC Section 509 deals with words, gestures or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman. This can be invoked in cases of online abuse of women as well.”

Other parts of penal law may apply as well, including section 499 which deals with defamation, sections 503 which deals with criminal intimidation and and 507 which addresses criminal intimidation via an anonymous communication.

“I think the only space that has any semblance of the free media is the Internet. Section 66A is the only way they are going to go about silencing people who speak their mind. This protecting woman is such a nice facade,” concludes Kandasamy.

Anonymous #OPindia hacks Kapil Sibal’s website


PTI

A file photo of Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal.
The Hindu A file photo of Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal.

Nov 30,2012

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal’s personal website has been hacked and defaced allegedly by Anonymous India group for the minister’s stand on IT Act.

The website www.kapilsibalmp.com was on Thursday attacked and contents were altered to show the minister in poor light.

Mr. Sibal, who represents the Chandni Chowk constituency in Parliament, uses this portal to interact with his constituency.

While most of the website has been restored, certain sections such as blogs, gallery, speeches and conversation were still not working.

While no official comment was immediately available, a source in the minister’s office said the website is an old one and had not been updated for sometime now.

The Twitter account of Anonymous India (@opindia_revenge), a group against Internet censorship and curbs on free speech, said Mr. Sibal’s site was getting “trolled“.

“The time to sit silently is gone. Call your friends and get them to protests sites,” said a link posted on the Twitter handle.

Meanwhile, the government on Friday said about 294 websites belonging to various ministries and government departments were hacked in the January-October 2012 period.

“A total number of 201, 303, 308 and 294 websites belonging to various ministries and departments in the government were hacked during the year 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 (till October), respectively,” Minister of State for Communications and IT Milind Deora said.

Five reasons why India can’t censor the internet-removed by TOI, HT,ET


Prasanto K  Roy, 12,  Nov 2012
Among all my columns and articles on various technology subjects (which are all still around), I just discovered that my pieces on censorship are being removed by the media sites.For instance, this reproduced below from Google’s cache of the original TOI piece. This was carried on TOI, ET, HT and other places.
Now if you Google for “Five reasons why India can’t censor the internet”, you’ll see the top links are still to the TOI and ET stories, but click the links, and the stories are gone!
Interesting, isn’t it, given the subject?
There’s a second piece I wrote, critical of Kapil Sibal, which has been removed months after publication by TOI, ET and HT.
PKR

Five reasons why India can’t censor the Internet

In just 24 hours, in the Facebook alumni group of St Stephen’s College, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal’s ratings crashed faster than that of US President Barack Obama or what former telecom minister A. Raja, now in judicial custody over second generation (2G) spectrum case, ever had.

Five reasons why India can't censor the Internet

In a survey to pick star alumni for a big debating clash with counterparts from the rival college across the road, Sibal was on the top five a week ago — among other stellar Stephanians like Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, former federal minister Mani Shankar Aiyar or former UN diplomat Shashi Tharoor. No longer!

As the #Idiot hash-tag topped Twitter trends, some withdrew their votes for Sibal, and there were posts like “Chuck him across the road” — a scathing insult, equivalent to the Parsis’ excommunication.

Just a preview of the global firestorm over the next two days!

The fire wasn’t from anonymous teens. Seasoned analysts blasted Sibal. Investor Mahesh Murthy posted: “Censor this! :) ! Five of the top 10 Twitter trends in India right now are: #IdiotKapilsibal, #KapilSibal, #Censorship, #FreeSpeech and #FreedomOfSpeech.”

All this, for just one statement from a politician not unknown for his foot-in-mouth disease? Not quite. For, he has the power to misuse and try to make it happen.

During the Anna Hazare movement, Sibal summoned representatives of the social networks. In a king-and-subjects interaction, he kept them waiting, then kept them standing in his room; gave them a pre-emptive dressing down; and snapped: ‘I don’t want any anti-government stuff on your networks. Fix it.’ There was no room for discussion.

So here’s a five-point Internet 101 for the illustrious Mr. Sibal.

1. The Internet cannot be edited: Duh! In an early Dilbert strip, the pointy-haired boss demanded that Dilbert ‘download’ the Internet and fax it to him. A decade down, it’s not so funny any more.

The Internet is not traditional media. India’s 1975 emergency and the media clampdown was possible because of the linear, broadcast nature of the old media. New media is distributed. No copy desk or censor board can ‘fix’ it. There is no editor to arrest. And, most content is hosted outside India’s jurisdiction.

2. User-generated content cannot be filtered: That would slow down the global Internet to a crawl, with posts appearing after days — even assuming so many ‘editors’ could be hired by, say, a Facebook or a Twitter.

Are phone operators responsible for ‘content’ carried on their networks — or their CEOs arrested if someone made a terror threat over a phone call? No, the telco is simply asked to help with the investigation — into who made the call.

Yes, Internet content has the permanence and public-impact potential that a phone call does not, but equally, it lends itself brilliantly to self-regulation.

3. Peer review works: Wikipedia is the best example. Who could have imagined that a user-created encyclopedia could be so objective, and comprehensive? Yes, anyone can go in and edit anything (barring entries like ‘Kapil Sibal’, which have been locked due to vandalism!).

If you make an inappropriate change, someone will come in and correct it. And so it is on Facebook or Twitter. Abusive posts will be reported, blocked, and the individuals knocked out of the site.

4. Draconian controls are not necessary: In this age of global cooperation on terror, companies cooperate. A rational request from India to Google or Facebook to bring down offensive content will be heard — regardless of jurisdiction.

5. Yes, there are precedents for Internet control, but…: Such censorship is in countries India doesn’t want to be — China, Pakistan, Myanmar or Saudi Arabia. Pakistan became a laughing stock when it issued a list of banned words for SMS messages. (That list is now standard reading for anyone wanting a quick lesson in present and future abuses that aren’t in any dictionary.)

The big daddy of ‘regulation’ is China, where everything is filtered, and if you break those filters, you are charged with treason. What a role model.

But wait.

Kapil Sibal knows all this, right? So why is this bright star from Harvard Law School and St. Stephen’s college now sounding so anachronistic in the Internet age? Is it the old ‘thou shalt display higher loyalty to the royal family than the prince himself’ mantra?

If Kapil Sibal is to defend himself against the charge of sycophancy, he is on a weak footing. There were many prior potential triggers for tackling social media, including fanatic religious posts, derogatory comments by Pakistan sympathisers, Anna Hazare, and more. That he finally picked a post that targeted Sonia Gandhi suggests that this was not out of serious, objective concern about India’s stability, security or secular fabric.

(The author is chief editor at technology publishers CyberMedia)

Source:  http://news.in.msn.com/