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Censorship Of Internet In India: A Boon or a Bane for the society?

"The internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow"-Bill Gates

This quote by Bill Gates summarizes the function of the internet since its inception. The basic aim of the internet was to bring people from all the corners of the world to a platform where they can collectively think, discuss, innovate for a better future. But with the rising use of internet over the years in both positive and negative ways ,there rises a necessity to control the use of internet.

Rising Of The Internet

January 1, 1983 is considered the official birthday of the Internet. Its origin in the efforts to build and interconnect computer networks that arose from research and development in the United States and involved international collaboration, particularly with researchers in the United Kingdom and France. The term "internet" was reflected in the first RFC published on the TCP protocol as a short form of internetworking, when the two terms were used interchangeably. In general, an internet was a collection of networks linked by a common protocol. As interest in networking grew by needs of collaboration, exchange of data, and access of remote computing resources, the TCP/IP technologies spread throughout the rest of the world.

During the late 1980s, the first Internet Service Provider (ISP) companies were formed. Companies like PSINet, UUNET, Netcom, and Portal Software were formed to provide service to the regional research networks and provide alternate network access.By 1990 new internet service providers were offering network services to commercial customers.With the introduction of World Wide Web and browsers, global internet services saw a tremendous rise from 1989 to 2004,this period was called Web 1.0.During this era internet was widely used for mailing lists, emails, e-commerce and early popular online shopping (Amazon and eBay for example), online forums and bulletin boards, and personal websites and blogs.

The changes that would propel the Internet into its place as a social system took place during a relatively short period of no more than five years, from around 2004 to 2009,this period is called Web 2.0 which ranges from 2004-present.It included acceleration of adoption and commoditization among households of, and familiarity with, the necessary hardware (such as computers).

Storage technology and data access speeds “ hard drives emerged, took over from far smaller, slower floppy discs, and grew from megabytes to gigabytes (and by around 2010, terabytes), RAM from hundreds of kilobytes to gigabytes as typical amounts on a system, and Ethernet, the enabling technology for TCP/IP, moved from common speeds of kilobits to tens of megabits per second, to gigabits per second.Their was also a gradual acceleration of perception of the ability of computers to create new means and approaches to communication, the emergence of social media and websites such as Twitter and Facebook to their later prominence. The Mobile revolution, provided access to the Internet to much of human society of all ages, in their daily lives, and allowed them to share, discuss, and continually update, inquire, and respond.

The Internet in India began in 1986 and was available only to the educational and research community. It was publicly available from 15 August 1995. The growth in internet users in India was driven by cut-price data plans introduced by Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd and cheaper smartphones,making India home to the world's 2nd largest internet database.

This platform will bring together 350 million customer footfalls at Reliance Retail stores, 307 million Jio connectivity customers and 30 million small merchants all over India who provide the last-mile physical market connectivity¯ says the Reliance Industries Chairman Ltd chairman Mukesh Ambani.As a result India is home to the world's 2nd largest internet database. More than half the world"s population is active on the internet, with India accounting for about 12% of them.

Internet Becoming A Necessity

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown us clearly that the Internet is no longer a luxury, a convenient enhancement for lifestyles for those who can afford it. Rather, Internet access has become a basic necessity. As in all moments of major technological change, people, companies, and institutions feel the depth of the change, but they are often overwhelmed by it, out of sheer ignorance of its effects.

With the Internet"s arrival, a person can communicate with another person (often with strangers). Simultaneously, there is no dependence on the location of both, and communication can be maintained continuously. It allows people to create content, solve problems, and communicate with each other, like virtual reality.

This way can be used both for leisure or for business purposes. At the same time, communication by using the Internet has removed many technical and psychological restrictions. It has become easier to contact a person, and communication has become more extended. Academic research has established that the Internet does not isolate people, nor does it reduce their sociability; it actually increases sociability.

The reasons for the increasing role of the Internet in modern society are the endless desire of a person to understand others and to be understood by others and the progressive development of methods for receiving, processing, collecting, and businesses.The fact that millions of Internet users worldwide and the starting conditions are approximately equal, but the benefits pursued can be very different. So, the importance of the Internet can differ from person to person.

Everything turned into digital. Now we have stopped enjoying real communication; everything happens in the digitally growing world.The Internet in the modern world is the largest mass media as it conveys trends in fashion, culture, and festival behavior cultivated in the Internet environment that is most actively introduced into our daily lives.The rapid growth in the number of internet users worldwide made possible the full functioning of the virtual space, repeating the real spheres of human life.Internet technologies have penetrated into science, culture, technology, production, medicine, education, economics, politics, and nothing but everywhere.

The Internet gave us the feeling of unity, communication without regard to residence, and the distance between people.Today it will take only a few seconds to send info from one end to another end of the world. Create joint projects and meetings, conferences, live entire virtual lives on gaming platforms, and use all kinds of means (images, video, text, sound) to demonstrate their lifestyle, their identity.

The Internet is an excellent source of information. Each person can turn to his knowledge of resources for others and find the answer to his question. Encyclopedias and reference books are in the distant past. Now, for each question, you can find the answer to the digital encyclopedias.Information on the Internet can be updated or changed at any point in time, which helps to improve the quality of the learning process and understanding.

The Internet is currently a source of information, a social and political platform, mass media, and a business network at the same time. With access to Internet connections, you can sell the product and services, even yours or others.

Kerala in the year 2017 had become the first state to recognise Right to access internet as a fundamental right in the case of Faheema Shirin v. State of Kerala.Consequently while hearing a plea in connection with Internet blockade in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5 -- in the view of revoking of Article 370 in the Union Territory, the Supreme Court declared access to internet a fundamental right,it has been listed in Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution.The ruling is in sync with the United Nations recommendation that every country should make access to Internet a fundamental right.

However with the indefinite use of the internet with so many people using it ,it does possess some negative effects.

Social consequences of the Internet can be linked to social networking and mostly relate to personal networks within the social field. For example, there are studies on the influence of social media use on existing social ties or relationships, indicating that this Internet activity enhances an individualization process .Negative consequences that relate to the personal field are often associated with the individuals" mental or physical state, such as aggression and hostility, neglect of health, detrimental changes in sleep and eating patterns, anxiety, and curtailing of other pastime activities.

There is an increase in the rate of crime as compared to the pre-internet era,many new crimes have come up through the internet such as phishing, net-banking frauds,SMS frauds etc.
With a smartphone in almost every hand of the world,a heavy increase in fake-news can be seen worldwide,different people post the information in a different manner and this information can be deciphered in 100 ways,this leads to the promulgation of fake news.A huge amount of fake news can witnessed during the COVID times, where people across the world opined their ways to end COVID and posted false information regarding the virus.

Absence of a strict regulation on the internet also results in viewing of anything on the internet by anyone irrespective of his/her age ,viewing of adult content or violence results in the change of behavioural pattern of children,they tend to be more violent.

Internet has also given a rise to mob lynching activities particularily in India, various instances have been seen where lynchers gather virtually through a Whatsapp group and the lynching is executed.

The Need To Control The Internet

With the changing times as the internet has become a necessity,the necessity of censorship of the internet in a positive direction has also arisen.

The internet besides being a source of information, communication is also flooded with negativity such as foul language, sexual content ,violence in various videos and OTT platforms. One can also access dark web to purchase ammunition,weapons etc.Person of any age can watch any videos or content on the internet for eg. If one would search "how to make a bomb" or " how to incite violence" etc. hundreds of websites and videos may appear on the internet which would instigate a person to commit these crimes.

Similarly, sexual content and violence appearing on OTT platforms and videos when watched by the young minds instigate them to commit brutal crimes like rapes and murder.
Social media platforms were formed so that people could come forward and communicate,discuss on various issues that they would bring a positive change in the society,but these platforms do not offer any strict check on the activities on these platforms.

An example of this can be seen from an incidence that happened in May 2020,where Members of the group called "Bois locker Room", said to be students of the 11th and 12th grades in some of Delhi's top schools, posted photos of teenage girls without their consent, along with offensive comments. A number of conversations purportedly showed members talking about sexually assaulting their classmates. This group was formed on a worldwide known social media platform "Instagram".

Censorship of internet is also necessary to protect the privacy of the people.In the digital everything is available online, a person"s name,address,mobile number,account details and other personal details are somewhere registered on the internet.There is a huge need to protect this information as it leads to banking frauds and can lead to cyber warfare among the countries.

In May 2021, an Israeli Cyber Intelligence Company found that data of Dominos for the past 5 years and data of Air India for the past 10 years has been hacked and is available online publicly by the hackers.

According to the National Statistical Commission ,the average literacy rate in India is 74.4% in the year 2011.This shows that literacy in India has still not achieved a satisfactory level but the internet is a flood of information,entertainment etc. both positive and negative and the internet is used by all the classes of the society right from the lower class to the upper class.If all the information irrespective of the age ,education level,guidance is provided it is bound to create a negative impact on the society in the form of crimes, violence etc. Therefore, the need to have censorship on the internet is of utmost importance in today"s world.

The Ways In Which Censorship On The Internet Should Take Place

Censorship means any regime or context in which the content of what is publicly expressed, exhibited, published, broadcast, or otherwise distributed is regulated or in which the circulation of information is controlled.- Oxford English Dictionary

Censorship in no sense should be understood as the means to curb people's voice,opinion on a particular subject.It should be understood as the regulations to help in the healthy functioning and usage of the internet.

In February 2021, the Government of India issued guidelines called Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 which talk about a 3 tier regulatory mechanism for digital news media and OTT platforms.

These guidelines with respect to OTT platforms state that they should comply with the laws of India and not stream content against integrity and sovereignty of India, ensuring security of the country and friendly relations with foreign countries and not stream content which may disturb public order. The platforms also have been cautious of various racial and religious beliefs and practices.

This censorship by the Government of India is not the desired kind of censorship.

This censorship does not provide for any kind of strict age regulation
It does not give any limit for the sexual content, foul language and violence for the OTT platforms
It fails to give the criteria for the content which may disturb the public order or friendly relations with other countries.
This type of censorship can be misused by any government to silence its criticisms,thereby curbing the fundamental right of free speech and expression.

Similarly the rules introduced in May 2021,for social media platforms like Whatsapp,Twitter,Signal etc. are against the privacy of its users.One of the rules says the social media platform has to submit the name of the first originator of a message/post if asked by the court or any government authority,it breaches into the privacy of its users these platforms can view the messages sent to anyone.

Therefore, to have censorship that would have a positive impact on the society,the administration of that country should formulate policies/laws that would strictly cater the needs for the development of the society.

First of all, a strict law must be made to have an age restriction on certain websites and adult content
The extent to which sexual content , foul languages and violence to be shown should be clearly elaborated by the law
A strong cyber police should be set up to handle the cyber grievances and would ensure the privacy of the users on the internet
Online content which would tarnish the image of India among other nations should be removed.This law should be formulated with proper criteria's and due diligence so that it does not hamper the people's right of free speech and expression and does not favour any government rather protects the image of the country.

Social media platforms should ensure that no sexual content in the form of videos/photos/messages should be transmitted through their platform ,at the same time maintaining the privacy of their users.Censorship, for a long time, has been seen as a taboo to the existence of democracy, freedom of speech and expression, freedom to live with dignity etc. However if censorship is put in a proper and effective way it will lead to a healthy and progressive functioning of a state.

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