India has begun cracking down on the use of social media by their citizens, particularly when it is used to criticize government officials or “incite unrest” in the county. The most recent case was the arrest of two women in Mumbai for a Facebook post: one of the women used her Facebook page to voice her opinion about the citywide strike that was sparked by the death of the Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray and the second woman “liked” her post. As a result, both women were arrested Sunday, November 18th under a section of the Indian Penal Code that outlaws spreading “statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill- will between classes.”
This incident gained notable publicity, but was just the latest in a string of recent arrests, detentions and account suspensions for comments posted on social media sites. According to Sangeetha Rajeesh and Heather Timmons, if you have an opinion in India that the government may not like, the only way to avoid arrest is to steer clear of social media at all costs. India’s free speech rules have been notoriosly weak and a relatively new Internet law is so broadly defined that, in many cases, lawmakers themselves do not fully understand it, and thus act on their own discretion in deciding who to arrest. Sunil Abraham, executive director at the Center for Internet and Society in Bangalore said, right now, “there’s nothing one can do but to close up your social media accounts” if you want to guarantee you won’t be arrested in India.
Do you think laws in India should be revised so that they protect the freedom of expression and speech through social media venues, or should Indian citizens follow the advice of Rajeesh and Timmons and simply avoid voicing any potentially risky opinions via social media sites?