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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A "secure" Internet

IIPM Prof. Arindam Chaudhuri on Internet Hooliganism

Sachin Pilot, Union Minister of StateSachin Pilot, Union Minister of State, Communications and Information Technology and Member of Lok Sabha, Government of India.

TSI: The new set of rules notified by the government have had mixed reactions. What is the government's rationale behind bringing these new set of regulations?

Sachin Pilot (SP): The new rules notified by the Department of Information Technology in April, 2011, are absolutely in line with the global best practices and set standards worldwide. The idea is to ensure a clean, safe and secure cyberspace for individuals, organisations and financial and business transactions. Moreover, this move by the government is not something new to the world. It already exists in most countries and we have just replicated these global best practices and introduced them in India. What we have tried to do is put a standard structure in place which will prevent the rising cases of cyber crime, fake identities, phishing, financial frauds etcetra.

TSI: There have also been discussions on how the new rules could hamper the right to freedom of speech and expression and critics, including bloggers, have gone loud on this issue. How do you respond to these apprehensions?

SP: I am saying this once again. The idea here is to ensure a safe and secure cyberspace for Internet users in our country and they are in line with the accepted norms worldwide. As for the allegations on the rules curbing freedom of expression, I don't think they hold any merit. The right to freedom of speech and expression is recognised as a human right under India's Constitution and we are nobody to challenge it. We are actually the custodians of what has been put down in the Constitution. So, contrary to the views that have surfaced in the media and over the Internet, there is absolutely no attempt or intention to curtail the freedom of speech or impose any sort of a gag on anybody.

TSI: With the new rules in place, certain critics have said that the new rules will provide the Government of India an opportunity to exercise control on all content over the Internet. May not be true, but really, is this an aspect that the government is interested in?

SP: Let me make something very clear. The government has absolutely no role to play here and hence there is no question of us [the government] controlling content in any manner. The onus here will actually rest on the users and the intermediaries. The new rules require hosts or owners of websites to take action against objectionable content that is considered disparaging, harassing, blasphemous or hateful. It has to be understood that people have used the Internet to indulge in character assassination and financial frauds. The new rules are an attempt to put an end to such malpractices which are thriving on the misuse of the Internet.

TSI: In the event of a complaint, regarding an intermediary, say Google, how would you bring them to task? Do you think the companies will abide by the new rules set?

SP: India is an open society and it also has one of the world's best systems of jurisprudence. If anybody thinks he has been wronged, he has all the right to take legal recourse. The laws of the nation apply to everyone, irrespective of their might and status. Moreover, a fair open house discussion was held by the IT department will all stakeholders before framing the rules. Critics' concerns over personal information being leaked out are also unfounded. There is no need for any apprehensions or fears over the new set of rules.

TSI: In the given context, how is the new set of regulations going to translate for the industry?

SP: We believe in free Internet. We have a high Internet penetration of 8% to 9% and with broadband internet catching up fast, the numbers are only going to shoot higher. With such a promising scenario, there is an urgent need to apply global best practices in terms of Internet usage while keeping our priorities right. Anything that threatens the unity, integrity, defence or safety of our country cannot be allowed to flourish. The new rules are a right step in the right direction and these rules will help in the growth of the Internet industry in India.

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