Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech. Popular speech, by definition, needs no protection – Neal Boortz.
And we all are the ones who need protection. Protection of our speech. Our free speech.
Regulation of free speech has been a question of debate since a long time. Freedom of Expression is an important right that we all possess in India, but it has been constantly intruded when exercised by a citizen, either in speech or in writing. In this post, we talk about how our IT Rules can hamper our freedom on the Internet and what we can do to save it.
Recently, Shri P Rajeeve, CPI(M) MP in the Rajya Sabha from Thrissur, Kerala, filed a motion in Parliament that calls for the annulment of the Intermediary Guidelines Rules 2011 (or for short, the IT Rules). The annulment of the rules would not mean that the Internet would remain unregulated. However, it would mean that the government would need to go back to the drawing board and make a new set of regulations that ensure that your right to freedom of expression as an Indian citizen is protected online, while also making sure that that right is not abused to harm the rights of others.
What exactly is the problem with the current set of rules? And how could they affect regular Internet users? To raise greater awareness about the IT Rules and why they are a threat to your Internet, the Internet Democracy Project has made a short video. You can watch it here.
As bloggers, we are threatened the most. Imagine that you write your views on your blog, your space, and that is suddenly removed from the Internet completely (under observation of this act) because it is ‘not acceptable’ to someone else. Your space is intruded. Your speech is restricted in your own space. And all this without a warning! The new rules of the IT Act have no appeal mechanism in place. The number of people who use Internet, and share their views through a Facebook page/note, a tweet, a blog post, or even a website, are invariably under the lens of this act. Your smallest of expression can be zoomed in to seem bigger, and unacceptable because of the IT Act. As much as we have the right to express, others have the right to listen or ignore if they don’t like it. So what can we do to stop this?
The motion will come up for a debate and vote before the end of the current budget session, which is on 22 May (tentative). That means that we have at the most until 22nd May to ensure that this motion gets passed, and these rules are repealed. Here are a few things we could do:
- Share the video on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or through email.
- Directly write to or call your MP and ask them to vote in support of the annulment of the rules.
- Join the Save Your Voice campaign, online and offline.
Defend democracy on the Internet, keep expression free!
Free speech is not to be regulated like diseased cattle and impure butter. The audience that hissed yesterday may applaud today, even for the same performance – William O. Douglas.