Why We Should Never Shutdown The Internet?: A Billion $ Question For India!

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Yes the title says it all, its 2016, even in India its 2016 ! Our Prime Minister has been urging us to go digital from the day he was elected. Our government has taken on social media like a pro. Yes this year it self, we had Internet shut downs across the country.

Here is an extensive list put together by the Centre for Communication and Governance at National Law University, Delhi. Where the globe is looking for solutions for providing free and fast internet to all citizens, India is still stuck in this pre historic methodology?

No Internet

13 years ago in 2003, during the World Summit on the Information society the following declarations were made:

  1. We, the representatives of the peoples of the world, assembled in Geneva from 10–12 December 2003 for the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society, declare our common desire and commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society, where everyone can create, access, utilize and share information and knowledge, enabling individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life, premised on the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and respecting fully and upholding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  2. We reaffirm the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelation of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, as enshrined in the Vienna Declaration. We also reaffirm that democracy, sustainable development, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as good governance at all levels are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. We further resolve to strengthen the rule of law in international as in national affairs.

The WSIS Declaration of Principles makes specific reference to the importance of the right to freedom of expression in the “Information Society” in stating:

  1. We reaffirm, as an essential foundation of the Information Society, and as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; that this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Communication is a fundamental social process, a basic human need and the foundation of all social organization. It is central to the Information Society. Everyone, everywhere should have the opportunity to participate and no one should be excluded from the benefits the Information Society offers.”

I am highlighting this, just to state that pretty much all of the globe is in agreement that we should have access to the Internet.

Lets look into India, we shutdown the internet for avoiding ‘escalation of rumor-driven civil unrest’, ‘students from cheating’. Both can be debated, I am taking a strong position from the perspective that, only way to overcome misinformation is by providing right information. The world over it has been recognized that hate speech can only be curbed through counter speech, in fact countries are working together with social media latforms and civil society to use counter speech for de radicalization.

Is the solution closing down the internet? Because anti-social elements have a backup plan in place, It’s the common citizens who are caught unaware. As per Brookings institute report

“India suffered an estimated national economic loss equivalent to $968 million — the highest harm caused to one country globally in their study — due to internet shutdowns.”

I believe its time for India’s law enforcement agencies to invest in capacity building and infrastructure to be able to regulate anti-social behavior on this news medium, pulling the plus might seem as an easy solution but has far larger long term disruptions.

Sources:

  1. http://indianexpress.com
  2. http://www.legallyindia.com
  3. http://www.medianama.com
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org
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