Unreasonable restraints on free speech? India? Well, you decide. According to an article published today in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, storm clouds are brewing over just how far the government should and can go in restricting free speech on the Internet. Indeed—just how ambiguous the regulations can be such that interpretation becomes a subjective problem, enforceable at the discretion of regulators.
Unfortunately, the new rules (referred to as “Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011”) stem from a 2008 amendment, widely supported by Internet service providers (I.T. Act 2008) to an Indian information technology statute first enacted in 2000. For a history of the Indian legislation, see Information Technology Act 2000 (ITA-2000).
The Amendment removed intermediary liability of Internet service providers, many of whom are represented by the Internet and Mobile Association of India, for any content created by third parties and for which the ISP played no active role in creating. While the removal of passive ISP intermediary liability is one of growing consistency in the international community, the regulations broadly empowering officials to curtail free speech on the web are not.
Growing trend, justified by security? Aberration spawned by immediate and local concerns? Abuse of power? Reasonable trade-off for protection of society? Ahh, but whose society? Where is the balance? Who decides?
Take a look at the regulations, then you decide. But if you need legal guidance or have questions about regulations that apply to the Internet—internationally, multi-nationally or domestically, in almost any part of the world—let us know. We are here to help.