2015 record shows rise of internet freedom in India: Freedom House

• Internet freedom improved in India for the second consecutive year in 2015
• The report released by Freedom House is called as “Freedom on the Net 2015”
• The most censored subject worldwide was criticism of authorities, followed by news about conflict, corruption allegations, etc.

It is a good way of keeping track of what has happened, and what has changed,” said Chinmayi A run, research director at the Center for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi. The team at the CCG authored the report. “We know that there were very few internet shutdowns in the year after the new government took office. But in next year’s (report) we will see the internet shutdowns of Gujarat, Manipur and Kashmir. Successful implementation of Digital India connectivity plans would also find their way into the report. For two years, India’s surveillance and privacy policies have been ambiguous — any government decisions in this context are also likely to show up in next year’s report,” added A run.
The Supreme Court judgement scrapping the controversial Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act contributed in large measure to furthering internet freedom in India, last year. According to the section, anyone sending “grossly offensive,” “menacing,” false information to cause annoyance, inconvenience, and so on was punishable with a prison term of up to three years. Another factor was net neutrality.
“In 2015, India’s internet users spoke out to defend net neutrality in record numbers, demonstrating a real commitment to equal, open access to online content,” said Madeline Earp, Freedom on the Net Asia research analyst. “Shutdowns and murky information about the authorities’ blocking and surveillance practices violate the same fundamental internet freedom principles.”
The most censored subject worldwide was criticism of authorities, followed by news about conflict, corruption allegations against top government or business figures, opposition websites, and satire.
Another area where governments around the world have moved was to ban encryption and undermine anonymity for all internet users. The number of governments pressuring companies and individuals to remove online content, as opposed to simply blocking what is deemed objectionable, was also on the rise, the report said. Authorities in 42 countries required private companies or internet users to restrict or delete web content dealing with political, religious, or social issues, up from 37 the previous year.

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