"Tolerant" Govt Of India Blocks More Content Through Facebook Than Any Other Country
PM Narendra Modi and Mark Zuckerberg: new partners in arms
NEW DELHI: According to Facebook’s latest Government Requests Report, the social media site has blocked more content from its platform in India than any other country in the first six months of this year. The reason, according to Facebook, is requests to do so by the Indian government.
According to data released by Facebook, the site blocked 15,155 pieces of content in India on its website, Whatsapp and Messenger apps, and photo-sharing platform Instagram between January and June this year.
This figure accounts for a whopping 73.7 percent of the total 20,000 pieces of content restricted worldwide at the instruction of 92 countries.
Further, the figures for India represent a three-times increase from the 4,960 items that were restricted in India during the same period last year.
“We restricted access in India to content reported primarily by law enforcement agencies and the India Computer Emergency Response Team within the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology because it was anti-religious and hate speech that could cause unrest and disharmony within India,” Facebook write in relation to its India content restrictions.
“We are not in a position to speculate on the reason for any increases or decreases in a particular country,” a Facebook spokesperson said when asked about the increase, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal.
As per the report, following India in the list of countries with the most amount of content restrictions was Turkey, up 58 percent to 4,496 from a year earlier.
The report comes on the heels of meetings between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, where both have pledged to connect India under a #DigitalIndia campaign. At a Townhall meeting in India last month, Zuckerberg said, “If you have a mission of connecting everyone in the world, you can’t do that without connecting India.” India is a major market for the US, with 130 million monthly Facebook users that places it second to only the United States.
In India, the government’s moves to restrict content online has come under massive criticism, with the Supreme Court recently ruling that Section 66A of the Information Technology Act is unconstitutional in its entirety, thereby striking down the provision that allowed for arrest for posting content on the internet that was deemed to be “allegedly objectionable.”
The Indian government had used the law to make a number of arrests for content distributed via Facebook and Whatsapp.
Here are ten instances when the act was used to target individuals:
1. Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan -- for questioning the statewide shutdown in Maharashtra following Bal Thackeray’s death.
"Every day thousand of people die. But still the world moves on... Just due to one politician dead. A natural death. Every one goes crazy... Respect is earned not given out, definitely not forced. Today Mumbai shuts down due to fear not due to respect,” 21 year old Shaheen wrote on Facebook a day after Hindu nationalist politician Bal Thackeray’s death.
The post did not even mention Thackeray by name, but Shaheen found herself in police custody for ten days. Being held along with her was Renu who had liked her post and commented saying, “Everyone know it's done because of fear!!! We agree that he has done a lot of good things. also we respect him, it doesn't make sense to shut down everything! Respect can be shown in many other ways!"
2. Aseem Trivedi -- for cartoons
Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was picked up by the police for displaying cartoons on his website and Facebook page that mocked Parliament and corruption in Indian politics and bureaucracy. In addition to being charged with Section 66(A) of the IT Act, Trivedi was slapped with charged of sedition under Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, and the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act.
3. Ambikesh Mahapatra and Subrata Sengupta -- for making fun of Didi
Ambikesh Mahapatra, a Jadavpur University chemistry professor was arrested for circulating an image depicting Trinamool Congress boss Mamata Banerjee and then-railway minister Mukul Roy. Along with Mahapatra, his neighbour Subrata Sengupta was arrested as the email account used to share the image had been Sengupta’s. The image was a parody of Satyajit Ray's detective flick, Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress), in which Banerjee points to the Indian Railways' logo and tells Roy: See Mukul, the Golden Fortress; Roy points to former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi and exclaims: That's an evil man!!!; Mamata says: Evil man, vanish!
"If one commits an offence, one has to face arrest. Conspiracies won't be tolerated,” Banerjee had said in reference to the arrests.
4. Ravi Srinivasan -- who insulted P. Chidambaram’s son
Small-time Puducherry businessman Ravi Srinivasan was charged under Section 66(A) of the IT Act for tweeting: “got reports that karthick chidambaram has amassed more wealth than vadra.”
5. Kishtwar young folk -- for posting a video to Facebook
Three youngsters from Kishtwar district in Jammu and Kashmir were arrested and spent 40 days in jail after they were tagged in a video that with allegedly blasphemous content. They were charged under 66(A) of the IT Act for desecrating religious symbols and inciting communal hatred by using information technology. However, the police had no evidence that the three youngsters uploaded the video; the arrests were made because they were tagged and one of them had “liked” the video in question.
6. The Air India employees -- who dishonoured the Tricolour
K V Jaganath Rao and Mayank Mohan Sharma were booked for defamation, outraging the modesty of women, insult to the national flag and under Section 66(A) of the IT Act, for posting “derogatory remarks” regarding Supreme Court Judges, using abusive language on social media and distorting the Congress’ flag.
7. Kanwal Bharti -- for a Facebook post questioning an IAS officer’s suspension
Dalit activist Bharti was charged under 66(A) of the IT Act for posting: “Akhilesh Yadav’s government has completely failed on the issue of reservation and Durga Shakti Nagpal. Akhilesh, Shivpal, Azam Khan and Mulayam Singh Yadav might pat each other and their government’s back on the Durga Shakti Nagpal issue but they are unable to see the reality in the state. The public is criticising them and mocking them and according to the people these four are unfit for democracy. What people do not know is that an old Madrasa was bulldozed and destroyed at Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. When the Maulvi objected, he was harassed and sent to jail. No officer was suspended in this case. Why? Because it is Azam Khan not Akhilesh who rules that place.”
8. A student -- for “insulting” Azam Khan
A class XI student from Rampur was charged under Section 66(A) of the IT Act for putting up a post that “maligns” Azam Khan’s image.
9. Devu Chodankar -- for posting a comment critical of Narendra Modi
Shipbuilding professional Chodankar was charged under Section 66(A) of the IT Act and sections 153(A) and 295(A) of the IPC and section 125 of the Representation of the People's Act for a comment on Facebook that was seen as critical of Narendra Modi. ‘If Modi is elected as PM this election, Christians will lose their identity in South Goa. Mark these words,” the post said. “There is an imminent threat of holocaust as it happened in Gujarat though under the garb of cunning government policies of (Manohar) Parrikar. Save the identity of South Goa. Vote against BJP this election,” said another.
10. Rajeesh Kumar -- also for insulting Narendra Modi
Police arrested CPI-M worker Rajeesh Kumar for posting allegedly “abusive” comments and photos in reference to Narendra Modi. One of the posts depicted Modi with a shoe on his face, and another post which carried “abusive” comments against Modi could be used to incite communal violence, the police claimed.