Without getting into questions of what should and should not be unlawful speech, this guest post by PRANESH PRAKASH chooses to take a look at how Indian law promotes arbitrary removal and blocking of websites, website content, and online services, and how it makes it much easier than getting offline printed speech removed.
Banning E-Books is Trivially Easy
E-Books Are Easier To Ban Than Books, And Safer
Contrary to what Mr. Sibal’s recent hand-wringing at objectionable online material might suggest, under Indian laws currently in force it is far easier to remove material from the Web, by many degrees of magnitude, than it is to ever get them removed from a bookstore or an art gallery. To get something from a bookstore or an art gallery one needs to collect a mob, organize collective outrage and threats of violence, and finally convince either the government or a magistrate that the material is illegal, thereby allowing the police to seize the books or stop the painting from being displayed. The fact of removal of the material will be noted in various records, whether in government records, court records, police records or in newspapers of record.
By contrast, to remove something from the Web, one needs to send an e-mail complaining about it to any of the string of ‘intermediaries’ that handle the content: the site itself, the web host for the site, the telecom companies that deliver the site to your computer/mobile, the web address (domain name) provider, the service used to share the link, etc. Under the ‘Intermediary Guidelines Rules’ that have been in operation since 11th April 2011, all such companies are required to ‘disable access’ to the complained-about content within thirty-six hours of the complaint. It is really that simple.
Continue reading How India Makes E-books Easier to Ban than Books (And How We Can Change That): Pranesh Prakash