Stakeholders steadfast on changes in IT Rules #Censorship


Kapil Sibal - World Economic Forum Annual Meet...

Kapil Sibal – World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2009 (Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

SHALINI SINGH, The Hindu

 Google, Facebook absent at meeting; working group to redraft objectionable language

The refusal by either companies or MPs to shed their reservations about the proposed changes in the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011, which are part of the IT Act, 2000, has led to Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal agreeing to engage in larger consultation. Accompanied by Minister of State Sachin Pilot, DIT Secretary J. Satyanarayana and Gulshan Rai, a senior functionary in the DIT, at a roundtable meeting here on Thursday, Mr. Sibal said it was not the government’s intention to regulate free speech or content. “We will set up a smaller group represented by all the stakeholders, civil society, lawyers, academics, cybercafés, MPs, and then tweak these rules in such a way that they are acceptable to everybody. Everybody must work together since the rules are required and due diligence must be done. There must be clarity with respect to due diligence, and the contours of liability must be clarified.”

The meeting, called at a day’s notice, was attended by a handful of MPs, representatives of industry and industry associations and lawyers. Civil society and the technical community were conspicuous by their absence. According to Sunil Abraham of the Centre for Internet and Society, civil society organisations were not invited and attempts to elicit an invitation from the DIT were spurned.

In a presentation on the process of formulating the IT Rules, including their consistence with Indian law, guidelines of mega Internet companies, and approach papers submitted by industry associations, the government used Google and Twitter’s transparency data to showcase the point that India stood out globally as the country which had made the least requests for removal of content.

The audience disagreed with the government’s claim that the Lok Sabha Committee on Subordinate Legislation had already scrutinised the rules, pointing out that it was meeting only on August 13, to discuss the issue.

Change in language

Stakeholders were unwilling to yield ground on their demands for a change in the language that is currently included in various Sections of the Rules. Of the 25 MPs whose names appeared on the list of invitees, only two made it to the meeting. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, an independent MP from Bangalore, said the IT Rules are an overreach on the law, lend themselves to misuse and cast an enormous liability on intermediaries. The issue needs to be discussed in greater detail by experts.

Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brian said freedom of the Internet must be protected at all costs especially since most content is user-generated. He agreed on the need for a mechanism to decide on the removal of harmful content but sought the involvement of State governments in making such decisions.

The Federation of Indian Industry and Commerce said it had consulted nearly 50 of its members whose consensus represented the need to remove some wrinkles from Section 3, especially 3(2) Section 79, and asked that a smaller working group of experts be set up to make those changes. Then the document should be put up for a wider consultation, especially with civil society.

NASSCOM, apex body for BPO and IT industries, wanted a clarification on the 36-hour clause. They also expressed concern about the interpretation, which may lead companies such as BPO and cloud computing to be treated as ‘intermediaries’, as well as reconstitution of the Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee or an appropriate redress body.

There was wide-ranging opposition to Section 3(2), especially with regard to the broad interpretation of the words ‘blasphemous’, ‘defamatory’, ‘ethnically objectionable’, and ‘disparaging’. Mr. Sibal showed a Yahoo ‘terms of service’ document wherein similar terms were used by the company.

‘Light touch regulation’

Defending itself, Yahoo said it expected a ‘light-touch regulation’ instead of the current rules. It raised several objections to Section 3. Yahoo was opposed to the fact that the onus of deciding what content should be kept or taken down was placed on intermediaries. It also pointed to the cost element involved. It was clarified that Yahoo was already in court, where it has appealed the constitutionality of Section 3(7).

Though Google and Facebook are known to have major concerns with the Rules, their representatives did not attend the discussion.

The CII raised questions about safe harbour and the issue of liability on the intermediary when it is forced to remove one private party’s content at the request of a second private party.

Due diligence burdensome

The Cyber Café Association said it was too small an entity to engage in detailed due diligence of the kind necessitated under the Rules. It would therefore be necessary to incorporate its views while redrafting the rules.

ISPs made a strong point about the confusion created by multiple orders from different courts being sent directly to service providers, and whether this entire piece could be better organised by way of procedure.

Rotten Apple- Demand a clean cloud


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Demand a clean cloud.

The media officer fo greenpeace  informs me that due to unavidable cricumstances their protest outside the Apple office in Bangalore, has been postponed, but they are engaging with people on streets of banaglore on the issue .Write to Apple now.

petition

Massive data-centres power the ‘cloud’ which stores all our data online. Tonnes of polluting coal is burnt to power these data centres.

Last year, pressure from people all over the world made Facebookcommit to renewable energy. Over 200,000 people from across the world have written to Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, asking him to quit coal. Join them and get Apple to clean our cloud.

You should write to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and ask him to use renewable energy to power Apple’s technology because coal is a polluting source of energy.

petition

We need to make Apple feel the pressure. The number of emails, reaching the CEO’s inbox, need to increase to achieve this.

Google, Yahoo! and Facebook are already taking steps to go renewable. It’s time Apple took responsibility for its technology. Ask them to act now!

Rotten apple – we demand a clean cloud

Thanks a billion!

Mrinmoy Chattaraj
Greenpeace India

P.S. Want to support our campaigns? We don’t take money from any corporation, government or political party! We never have, and we never will. Do help Greenpeace remain fiercely and proudly independent. We will send you Greenpeace organic-cotton grocery bag as a thank you for your contribution. Click here to chip in.

Greenpeace on the web:

Facebook vs govt: Why we should let judges take on free speech


 

Firstpost

Fear of censorship is probably the gut reaction of most right thinking people to the ongoing judicial case against 21 websites including Facebook, Google and Yahoo.

The Delhi High Court demanded progress in advance of a hearing, scheduled for today, 16 February, in the case brought by Vinay Rai alleging the sites promoted “enmity between classes and causing prejudice to national integration”.

We should be nervous about potential censorship in advance, however unfeasible technologically, of all content going on these sites. But we should also let the process play out in full.

Too often, particularly in the US, you hear talk of “judicial activism”, i.e. judges making decisions in particular cases that one party really doesn’t like. When California courts have upheld that banning gay marriage is unconstitutional, the right-wing and religious communities allege “activism”. What they’re really saying is a polite version of, “You’ve overstepped the law”. And those in the US fighting the influence of money in politics, alleged activism in the Citizens United case that opened the flood gates.

The attacks on websites for the content created by “the masses” is a precedent that makes India look more like China. The only difference is the Indian approach might be completely reinforced by the courts. AP

It goes both ways.

Some countries have a penchant for arresting judges as a pretty effective way of preventing them investigating politicians. That should only be necessary if they are themselves corrupt, and should only be removable by other judges.

If you have an effective judicial system — both, attached yet independent, within an effective constitution — then more times than not, they are quite good at ruling on cases within the context of laws as they exist. And if they make mistakes, that’s what appeals are for.

The attacks on websites for the content created by “the masses” is a precedent that makes India look more like China. The only difference is the Indian approach might be completely reinforced by the courts.

Requests for Delhi Police and the Centre to join the case seems to be broadening out the case beyond its initial scope, and that could be drifting into “activist” territory. The counsel for both may argue the issue concerned millions in a “great country” like India.

But as the counsel for Facebook pointed out: “We have not seen a case where Centre has come rushing to the court to raise submissions in a private complaint case like this. We object to this.”

The Supreme Court will have to eventually decide the balance of protecting the abstract “national integration” and “enmity between the classes” and the potential limitations on freedoms of expression, the right to equality and others.

Individual freedoms are embodied and represented in most online media now.

Expression comes out through Facebook or Youtube or blog postings. Protests online allow individuals to assert their religious views and fight against exploitation. All rights are inter-related. You can’t assert your freedom of religion without the freedom to speak. Restricting the content of websites could, in fact, prevent national integration because everyone would be prevented from freely expressing opposing views, whereby you achieve dialogue and build up peaceful civil society. Everything has to be balanced.

Judges must test the laws for their capacity to balance, and their interpretations must be tested in turn. We have to let judges challenge free speech’s protections, to ensure they are effective.

It is obvious from the High Court so far that there is a certain presumption of guilt being applied to the websites. They are being blamed, as hosts and facilitators, of all the views and opinions considered contrary to either Vinay Rai, or the courts, or politicians, or “integration”. We must let this play out and hope that a higher court – a more wise court – will show the judicial activism necessary to balance the rights of the constitution that apply to all Indian citizens.

If, however, unrestricted censorship of the digital world is re-enforced by the Supreme Court, then it will fall to those very citizens to demand their government redress the balance in favour of those original free rights. Courts can, generally, only judge based on the laws on the books. We may yet need to change the books.

 

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