Avoid Social Media at all Costs in India…The Alternative? Arrest.

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?
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5 thoughts on “Avoid Social Media at all Costs in India…The Alternative? Arrest.

  1. Different countries have different politics so it’s difficult to apply freedom speech in every country. Right now, I think the safest way for Indian citizens is to avoid saying anything negatively about the government. After all, it’s not a good thing to be arrested.

  2. Being an American citizen I think laws in India should be revised so that they protect the freedom of expression and speech through social media venues. I believe that everyone has a right to an opinion and if they feel compelled to express that opinion then they should have the freedom to do so on social media sites. People might disagree with their posts, but I believe that is the beauty of life because everyone thinks differently. Preventing people from posting their beliefs on these sites is basically saying sorry you don’t have the right to an opinion. I think that is a major issue in some countries because they are taken away what I believe to be a God given right. However, I guess I have been privelaged growing up in America and that some other nations just don’t function as freely as ours.

  3. It is hard for me to say exactly what types of laws India needs regarding free speech. Let’s not forget that it is a country of over 1 billion people that deals with ethnic and religious strife on a constant basis. If even 10% of India’s population was given incorrect information via social media about this strike and took to the streets, the country would have a major problem on its hands. In addition, this law against “statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill- will between classes” sounds like a law to protect individuals from each other, rather than opposing free speech against the government. It would be a different issue were it a law that targeted criticism of the government.

  4. After reading that “the 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,” I would not attempt to go against the grain by posting thoughts that would seem pointed towards the government. This is not the Indian government’s first attempt at monitoring and controlling electronic information. Earlier this year, the Department of Information Technology issued guidelines that demanded Internet sites to delete content that officials or private citizens consider objectionable. It has been going on for years and will continue to be the case in India, so as much as I would like to be able to speak freely online, I do not want to be made an example of by the Indian government.

  5. I find it fascinating that, in India, one could be arrested for “liking” a Facebook post. In fact, one of our classmates recounted last week that he inadvertently “reported” several YouTube videos before discovering his error. What would have been the result if he had lived in India and accidentally “liked” the anti-government post?

    I liken this story to a similar, drastic accounting from a few years, back, when the music industry was seeking to crack down on pirates. They chose an average person to make an example of, threatening her with many years of prison time and/or exorbitant fines as damages. Regardless of the actual outcome, the record companies had made their point, along with the journalistic media, who also had stakes in the game, most belonging to media conglomerates.

    If, as the post suggests, that the only way to avoid such arrest in India is to close one’s social media accounts, I wonder what the backlash will be from the young, tech-savvy, and (I assume) social media-connected class of people who are bringing India into the modern ages.

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