THE INTERNET AND ITS IMPACT ON FREE SPEECH

One of the fundamental rights granted by many national constitutions around the world, including those of India and America, is the freedom of expression and the ability to have opinions without interference. Press and the Internet must be open, unrestricted, and unfiltered in order to guarantee freedom of speech and expression.

The Internet fosters economic, social, and political development and advances humankind by significantly increasing people's ability to exercise their right to freedom of expression, which is an "enabler" of other human rights. In comparison to other fundamental human rights like the right to life and equality before the law, the right to access the Internet may seem less important. The rights to work and education are also included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and both depend heavily on having access to the Internet. According to a United Nations recommendation, Estonia, Greece, France, and Finland have declared that having access to the internet is a fundamental human right. Considering the backdrop and history, my paper seeks to identify the key issues surrounding Internet regulation and how it affects free expression.

Do governments have any legal authority to restrict access to and edit the content of the internet? What can we do to address the Internet's drawbacks?


CURRENT GLOBAL SITUATION

We utilize the internet for a variety of informational reasons, including communication, education, trade and commerce, news access, entertainment, gaming, and socialising. It is exceedingly challenging to envision a world without the Internet since it has ingrained itself so deeply into our daily lives. It is a cheap global platform for exchanging views, opinions, and dissemination of information in real time.

The Internet ‘s main power comes from the fact that it can be used for all kinds of media – text, audio, and video. Unrestricted internet is breaking the barriers among people and making people closer to each other. “The Internet has changed the way we communicate, work and play, it has affected the way we live and earn, participate and protest.” [1]

Additionally, going online," traditional media outlets like newspapers and radio stations have increased the influence of the internet. Each of these sites can be used in various ways to access and distribute both legitimate and illicit content, which has significant ramifications for law enforcement and the legal system. The internet is a good medium for engaging in unlawful and undesired behaviours because of how simple, affordable, and accessible it is. The internet has become contentious as a result of this illicit and harmful use, which has also given rise to several structural, technical, and legal issues. Obtaining personal information through deception, disseminating offensive or illegal content, exposing young children to inappropriate material, breaking copyright laws, stealing private information from computers, intercepting credit card information, operating fraudulent websites, and spreading viruses are now widespread methods. Additionally, drug traffickers are increasingly using the Internet to sell their goods via encrypted email. Hackers from Pakistan and China have gained access to our CBI, PMO, NSG, and even army officers' computers.

“With the rise of the Internet the opportunities to express one has grown exponentially. But so have the challenges to freedom of expression.” [2] In order to stop and eradicate the above-mentioned illicit behaviours, many nations block the Internet. Furthermore, several countries block access to anti-establishment websites on the Internet.


INDIA IMPOSES INTERNET FILTERING

India will have 302 million Internet users by December 2014 and will overtake the United States to become the second largest user country only behind China.[3] Internet connection is primarily available in cities right now, but it is slowly making its way to India's rural areas. The Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 offers a legal foundation for policing Internet usage in India. The revised Act makes it illegal to publish pornographic content online and gives police the authority to inspect any location without a warrant and detain anybody who are found to be in violation of its rules.

When a user reports content as objectionable, search engines and social networking sites are required under the Act to delete it within 36 hours. Regarding the scope and boundaries of online freedom of expression, there is a lot of discussion and argument. It has become quite usual to remove content that is offensive or otherwise unpleasant or that threatens public safety or public order. •In the domains of politics, security, and conflict, as well as the social sphere, India employs "selective" Internet filtering. However, there has also been a lot of protest to India's selective censorship of blogs and other content, frequently done in the name of security.

In its decision in Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, 2015, the Supreme Court of India struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 on the grounds that the Section has a chilling effect on the right to freedom of speech and expression over the Internet.

Never since the 1960's has a court made such a bold ruling on freedom of speech. And it could not have come at a better time. Today the world is a far more connected place than it was when the Constitution was drafted. The ripple effect of actions is felt much further afield, and modern technologies allow our voices to be amplified. The government legitimately fears the consequences of allowing radical elements to use these modern technologies unchecked as this can be a powerful weapon of destabilisation. [4]


CURRENT SCENARIO

In present-day India, the future of Internet freedom appears bleak.[5] From the deliberate interruptions of mobile and Internet services to limit unrest during rioting in the Northeast to picking up individuals—a professor in West Bengal, a cartoonist in Mumbai—the state’s iron fist is everywhere.[6] The government had also ordered Instagram, Google, and Facebook to block many specific items said to contain objectionable religious comments and pictures. Internet access was restricted in Jammu and Kashmir. In India the web content filtering requests are coming from government authorities as well as from private individuals through court cases. While our laws are applied on a local basis, the Internet operates on a worldwide scale. The legal ramifications of the Internet frequently have an international scope. Despite being held globally, content on the Internet can be viewed globally. There is hardly any local storage for web content.

India is aggressively bringing up Internet governance issues at the UN level as a result.


CONCLUSION

Clearly, the Internet has presented us with new difficulties. Governments and international organisations around the world are facing difficulties with privacy, the "Internet of Things," and net neutrality.

The Internet has opened new avenues for free speech, yet many of these have been utilized for unpleasant and unlawful acts. One must be aware of the constraints on free expression before criticising Internet censorship. One cannot declare freedom of speech to be a fundamental right. Since the internet does contain objectionable material that is unfit for public access for a variety of reasons, some control cannot be viewed as an infringement on people's rights.

Internet censorship is not unreasonable on the part of the government because it is only carrying out its responsibility to keep its citizens safe. It is the responsibility of legislators to enact legislation and create procedures to combat cybercrime. Similar to this, it is the responsibility of our courts to uphold our freedom of speech and strike a balance between competing public and private rights and interests.

In all circumstances, the restrictions imposed must be reasonable, in the public interest, and not for political or other purposes. We must be careful to avoid undermining the freedom of speech protected by the constitution in our attempts to make the Internet safer.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

[1] Prof. Wolfgang Benedick and Dr Matthias, From the extracts available online of Freedom of expression and the Internet (2014), ISBN 978-92-871-7702-5

[2] Prof. Wolfgang Benedick and Dr Matthias, From the extracts available online of Freedom of expression and the Internet (2014), ISBN 978-92-871- 7702-5

[3] Hindustan Times, Nov 20, 2014

[4] https://www.mondaq.com/india/social-media/468274/supreme-court-upholds-freedom-of-speech-on-the-internet

[5] Geoffrey King/CPJ Internet Advocacy Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists , January 13, 2014 https://cpj.org/x/583a

[6] India’s declining Internet freedom- Any blow to the Internet’s free functioning is a blow to individual freedom. Live Mint , OCT 22, 2013.



This article is written by Mehwish khan of Manipal university Jaipur.

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