Age of Kali: Fear of a Blogged Planet

Our plans are myriad and excessively complex!

The internet is a schizophrenic piece of technology. It is a true soapbox for any and all to air their ills, their dreams and their ideas. It is a world where one minute I can learn about how to make a motor out of a battery, a button magnet and copper wire and the next learn about how we live in a shadowy conspiracy world where Lizard Men rule us all and only keep us around so that their excessively complex Xanatos Gambit can pay off so they can capture the macguffin that they deeply desire(And no, I can tell the difference between a World Of Darkness scenario and a crazy man’s ranting).

I solve arguments with the lightsaber of skepticism!
For every P. Z. Myers there is a Ken Ham, for every Paul Krugman there is a Ron Paul supporter, for every den of atheist inequity and vice there exists an equally wretched hive of religious scum and villiany. But that is the thing. The internet is a true soap box. A true bastion of free speech, granted there are local rules mostly imposed by individual websites and bar copyright law and illegal pornography pretty much anything and everything goes, but so does the criticism of anything and everything. 
Even the cutting edge of taste (the very razor’s edge between tasteful and tasteless) that is 4Chan is at it’s corroded cynical blackened heart a bastion of free speech. Even 4Chan, a mostly lawless space still does adhere to rules as seen by it’s denizens championing such causes such as anti-scientology protests, their known meme of “summoning the party bus” (Tracking a paedophile who was soliciting for images down and having his details sent to the FBI) and even speaking out against animal abuse by a woman who threw a cat into a bin. 

But that’s the thing, we are free to speak. Any controls on what we “say” (not what we do) is a restriction on freedom of speech. And my freedom of speech can be impinged.
India has passed the IT act of 2000, and this act enshrines a rule stating that any comment that is regarded as objectionable must be removed within 36 hours. Material defeined as “grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, racially/ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling or otherwise unlawful in any matter what so ever. Anything which threatens “the unity, integrity, defence, security, sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, or causes incitement of cognisable offence or prevents investigation of an offence or is insulting to another nation”.
Well that is the whole law. But of particular note is the laws that are considered “grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, hateful, ethnically objectionable, disparaging and things which affect relationships with foreign states and things that are insulting to another nation”.
These things are easily open to interpretation. Honest criticism can be slotted into this by simple subjectivity. While grossly harmful can be applied to such practices as homeopathy, it can also be applied by homeopaths to us in medicine. Harassment, Defamatory, Hateful are subjective qualifiers in themselves. Blasphemy is something simply biased against atheists since our entire world view is blasphemous in almost every religion’s eyes. Obscenity is again something subjective, pornography is not really bad when taken in a western context. There are genuine criticisms that you make on ethnic situations. Complaints against child marriage, circumcision, caste system, gender selection and arranged marriages are all entrenched in various cultures. The caste system is an Indian cultural phenomenon and complaints about it are ethnic in nature. And there are many things that are insulting to various nations.  
Criticism is by nature disparaging, defamatory and can be considered as harassment. Banning criticism is banning free speech. And yes, I know it’s suspiciously precise in stopping things like Wikileaks. Infact I am pretty sure what this legislature is aimed at is a combination of knee jerk reaction against criticism of political parties by Indian bloggers (Who are mainly middle class and see this as a forum to unleash their pent up frustration at a universally corrupt government system and inept local leadership.), an attempt to somehow secure India from terror threats by making it difficult to use internet cafes and finally a simple fist shaking gesture at individuals such as Assange whose Wikileaks reports haven’t been kind to India.
This is a blow against all freedom. The internet should and must be a free forum where ideas can be discussed. It is a bastion of global discourse and exchange of opinions. Banning the flow of information and criticism is to blind yourself to a truly powerful tool. The globalisation of thought, means that the ideas a person has anywhere across the world are pertinent to people in other parts of the world. That our combined knowledge and opinions can be improved by the opinions of others and thus produce real change in society.
Like it or not, India is changing. My parents keep telling me so, but it still has a long way to go. You cannot have the development of the west with the villager and tribal mindset that pervades a lot of people. You cannot have the economy of the west when you regard women as uppity chattel. Criticism is to be taken, to be analysed and to be corrected by changes and improvements.
I myself would be guilty of cultural criticism, blasphemy and obscene material simply because I am critical of stupid aspects of culture, don’t believe in respecting mythical creatures and believe in sexual education and the sexual revolution as a key part of the improvement of women’s rights and thinking in the UK and indeed the rest of the world.
This is a step backwards for freedom and for India as a whole.

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