FOEX Live: May 28-29, 2014

Posted by Geetha Hariharan at May 29, 2014 08:50 AM |
A selection of news from across India with a bearing on online freedom of expression and use of digital technology

Media focus on the new government and its ministries and portfolios has been extensive, and to my knowledge, few newspapers or online sources have reported violations of freedom of speech. However, on his first day in office, the new I&B Minister, Prakash Javadekar, acknowledged the importance of press freedom, avowing that it was the “essence of democracy”. He has assured that the new government will not interfere with press freedom.


A FICCI discussion in Guwahati, attended among others by Microsoft and Pricewaterhouse Coopers, focused on the role of information technology in governance.


Following the furore over allegedly inflammatory, ‘hate-mongering’ Facebook posts by shipping engineer Devu Chodankar, a group of Goan netizens formed a ‘watchdog forum’ to police “inappropriate and communally inflammatory content” on social media. Diana Pinto feels, however, that some ‘compassion and humanism’ ought to have prompted only a stern warning in Devu Chodankar’s case, and not a FIR.


Syed Waqar was released by Belgaum police after questioning revealed he was a recipient of the anti-Modi MMS. The police are still tracing the original sender.

Madhya Pradesh:

The cases of Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan, and recently of Syed Waqar and Devu Chodankar have left Indore netizens overly cautious about “posting anything recklessly on social media”. Some feel it is a blow to democracy.


In Navi Mumbai, the Karjat police seized several computers, hard disks and blank CDs from the premises of the Chandraprabha Charitable Trust in connection with an investigation into sexual abuse of children at the Trust’s school-shelter. The police seek to verify whether the accused recorded any obscene videos of child sexual abuse.

In Mumbai, even as filmmakers, filmgoers, artistes and LGBT people celebrated the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, all remained apprehensive of the new government’s social conservatism, and were aware that the films portrayed acts now illegal in India.


At the inauguration of the 42nd All Manipur Shumang Leela Festival, V.K. Duggal, State Governor and Chairman of the Manipur State Kala Akademi, warned that the art form was under threat in the digital age, as Manipuri films are replacing it in popularity.


Following the lead of the Lok Sabha, the Rajasthan state assembly has adopted a digital conference and voting system to make the proceedings in the House more efficient and transparent.


Seemandhra Chief Minister designate N. Chandrababu Naidu promised a repeat of his hi-tech city miracle ‘Cyberabad’ in Seemandhra.

West Bengal:

West Bengal government has hired PSU Urban Mass Transit Company Limited to study, install and operationalize Intelligent Transport System in public transport in Kolkata. GPS will guide passengers about real-time bus routes and availability. While private telecom operators have offered free services to the transport department, there are no reports of an end-date or estimated expenditure on the project.

News and Opinion:

Over a week ago, Avantika Banerjee wrote a speculative post on the new government’s stance towards Internet policy. At Fair Observer, Gurpreet Mahajan laments that community politics in India has made a lark of banning books.

India’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) has detected high-level virus activity in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 8, and recommends upgrading to Explorer 11.

Of the projected 400 million users that Twitter will have by 2018, India and Indonesia are expected to outdo the United Kingdom in user base. India saw nearly 60% growth in user base this year, and Twitter played a major role in Elections 2014. India will have over 18.1 million users by 2018.

Elsewhere in the world:

Placing a bet on the ‘Internet of Everything’, Cisco CEO John Chambers predicted a “brutal consolidation” of the IT industry in the next five years. A new MarketsandMarkets report suggests that the value of the ‘Internet of Things’ may reach US $1423.09 billion by 2020 at an estimated CAGR of 4.08% from 2014 to 2020.

China’s Xinhua News Agency announced its month-long campaign to fight “infiltration from hostile forces at home and abroad” through instant messaging. Message providers WeChat, Momo, Mi Talk and Yixin have expressed their willingness to cooperate in targeting those engaging in fraud, or in spreading ‘rumours’, violence, terrorism or pornography. In March this year, WeChat deleted at least 40 accounts with political, economic and legal content.

Thailand’s military junta interrupted national television broadcast to deny any role in an alleged Facebook-block. The site went down briefly and caused alarm among netizens.

Snowden continues to assure that he is not a Russian spy, and has no relationship with the Russian government.