Tag Archives: Civil Liberties

A Victory, and Moving Forward – TRAI Consultations on OTTs

Last week, the Supreme Court of India in its judgment in the case of Shreya Singhal and Ors. v Union of India has decreed S. 66A of the Information Technology Act unconstitutional in its entirety, and at the same drastically restricted the ambit of Ss. 69A and 79 by reading into them the jurisprudence of Art. 19(1) (a) and 19(2). It has at the same time struck down the notice-and-takedown regime, replacing it with a system with more oversight, as we will see in following posts.

We will shortly be coming out with separate, detailed posts on each of the separate dimensions of the judgement, including but not restricted to the Free Speech issues, the Intermediary Liability issues, and the Website blocking concerns. But before we start on to that, a short word of caution.

The victory of 66A is an absolutely immense victory for freedom of speech in India, and not just in the case of the internet – the judgement is a well-written, multifaceted one, which will in all probability have an impact on free speech jurisprudence for years to come. But freedom of speech on the cyberspace is not a victory that is final yet. As of right now, the most crucial debate in the domain of the Indian cyberspace, which holds its future in its hands, is that of Network Neutrality.

And right now, the TRAI has just this week itself released its Consultation Paper on Over-The-Top (OTT) services. While we will be releasing our posts on this issue soon as well, you can read the paper for yourself here, and read Medianama’s post on the issue here.

The crucial part here is that this paper is open for consultation at the moment. We do not have, in India, a John Oliver who can appeal to the masses and flood the TRAI with comments. But that in no way means that the work that is done here is any less important, or that these issues deserve any less concern. Please read, and please comment. These are the issues that decide the future of the internet in India, as much as S. 66A did, if not more.

Comments should be sent to: advqos@trai.gov.in

Facebook, ‘Internet.org’ and the Ignored Questions of Civil Liberties

(Image Source: https://flic.kr/p/4W8mW)

 Earlier yesterday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg met with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad (who curiously also holds the Ministry of Law and Justice portfolio). The Facebook CEO was in New Delhi on the 9th and 10th of October for the Internet.org summit.

It is not a surprise that much of Zuckerberg’s visit focused on the topic of ‘Internet.org’, which is a not-for-profit partnership set up last year by Facebook along with mobile phone technology providers Ericsson, Mediatek, Opera Software, Samsung, Nokia, and Qualcomm which aims to bring affordable Internet access to everyone. In fact, the most quoted part from his visit seems to be his statement that “Internet connectivity can be now considered as a human right”. And there are actually multiple quotes and articles on this issue. Unlike Vadodara, Zuckerberg’s visit has been covered in mainstream media. But an actual scrutiny of the issues raised therein and their consequences seems to be lacking. Continue reading Facebook, ‘Internet.org’ and the Ignored Questions of Civil Liberties