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Censorship — A Death Knell for Freedom of Expression Online

by Prasad Krishna last modified Dec 19, 2011 10:12 AM
On December 8, 2011, NDTV aired an interesting discussion on internet censorship. Shashi Tharoor, Soli Sorabjee, Shekhar Kapoor, Ken Ghosh and Sunil Abraham participated in this discussion with NDTV's Sonia Singh.

Sunil said that we need to reflect upon the limitations of freedom of expression which was listed out by Soli Sorabjee and then ask the question whether they are the same limitations in the IT Act. If one reads section 66A, one comes to the conclusion that the IT Act places many additional limitations on the freedom of expression (annoying speech, speech harmful to minors, inconvenient speech) and these are limitations that don’t have existing definitions either in the IT Act or any other statute or case laws. 

Sunil further said that through section 79 which is the intermediary liability regime, the government places together a private censorship regime. We did some research at CIS. We sent fraudulent take down notices to seven large international and national intermediaries and through our empirical research we can demonstrate that these intermediaries over-comply with these fraudulent take down notices. So there is already (since the amended IT Act and the notification of the Rules in April this year) a huge chilling effect on the internet thanks to post facto censorship and what the minister is now calling for is preemptive or pro-active censorship which is really going to be the death knell for freedom of expression online.


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