Move to rein in Internet censorship falters; ISPs continue to block websites
WHEN Rajya Sabha member from Kerala P Rajeeve of CPM moved an unprecedented motion to annul the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, he did not really expect a rollback of the laws. As he told Down To Earth in the days preceding the discussion in the Upper House, it was the only way to have a parliamentary discussion of rules which are the prerogative of the executive. “Had the minister concerned (Kapil Sibal, Communications and Information Technology) given assurance on revisiting the rules it would have served the purpose,” the MP had conceded.
On May 17 this did happen. Following a two-hour debate, the annulment motion was rejected after Sibal agreed to call a meeting of MPs who had objections along with all stakeholders to discuss the contested rules. He promised that whatever consensus emerged would be implemented by the government. Rajeeve’s contention is that the IT (information technology) rules are a violation of right to freedom of speech besides going against the laws of natural justice. “The rules are ultra vires of the parent IT Act,” he says.
The rules have been vexatious since they were notified in April 2011. Critics said they were leading to censorship of the Internet in a far from transparent manner because the new rules forced the intermediaries to regulate content and thus play censor. Intermediaries as defined in the IT Act of 2000, include a broad range of players from Internet service providers (ISPs) such as MTNL and Reliance to search engines like Google and Yahoo!, auction sites, blogging platforms and cyber cafes. The rules specify a broad list of unlawful content: information that is grossly harmful, blasphemous, obscene, encourages money laundering or is unlawful in any other manner.
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