Freedom of Speech also implies responsibilities that justify that freedom
Digital tools have exterminated the Government’s attempts to establish monopoly over news and other information media. It largely promotes the need for transparency and accountability in the country. Digital technology connects the citizens to a wide range of resources, which empowers them in the field of education, economic opportunities and healthcare..
Internet has largely altered the Human Rights environment worldwide. It has given a boost to fundamental rights like Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Information. These rights hold great importance for every citizen all over the world because they allow individuals to shape their own opinions and argue for their access to all other rights, whether that is fair trial, freedom of religion, decent living conditions or free elections.
Although Internet is a great boon in the lives of people there are many who abuse the freedom that Internet provides them with. It creates an extensive array of infringement issues, which are not easy to resolve after a certain level. At times people active on Social Media cross the thin line between disagreement and insult. People take issues personally and react to it in ways, which result as harmful for individuals as well as masses. Insults and abuses have now become the order of the day in the enjoyment of freedom of press and expression.
Even though abuse via Social Media is new to people, abuse in general has been a part of the society for a long time. The difference here is not in intention but at publicity level.. Hate letters are now replaced by abusive tweets and Social Media comments. As Social Media has a larger audience in comparison to email or letter, which is not public, it has a larger impact and gets much more distressing for people. . At times, media flashes a certain issue up to a level that leads to suicides, promotes rumours and affects the overall well being of people involved in the issue. A recent example of such a case is Shashi Tharoor-Sunanda Pushkar case. The consequences of a tweet or post sent in haste can be defamatory can infringe copyright or other intellectual property rights, breach privacy, constitute harassment, malicious communication or improper use of an electronic communications network, incite riot or terrorism or leave one in contempt of Court.
Just like every coin has two sides, Internet and Social Media also come along with their pros as well as cons. The solution here lies in finding a mid-way which can resolve the classic battle between freedom of speech and freedom to abuse. It is easy to blame the medium, but it is also unfair to do so. The obligation here is to educate the Social Media community in accordance with the legal framework governing their environment and to understand the reason, which drives such behaviour.
Privacy protections have not kept pace with technology
In providing security to the masses, access to electronic communication has become an important tool for law enforcement agencies to combat crime, and for security agencies to improve security of the public. There must be legislation for a distinct separation between surveillance of electronic communication by law enforcement agencies on the one hand, and intelligence collection by security agencies on the other. There should be no scope of misuse of such powers at any level by the enforcement agencies and should be used only for progressive purposes. There should also be an institutional separation between electronic communication agencies, and intelligence agencies for smooth functioning of such practices. This is an important aspect, which should be tackled with immediate action. Policy makers should keep in mind the international community, which works in a multi- stakeholder environment. Procedural checks and balance can also help us to keep internet sanity intact.
We are now at the point where trust in the Internet is highly challenged. The shocking revelations of mass monitoring by the United States and United Kingdom show how privacy protections have not kept pace with technology. As our lives become more digitized, unchecked surveillance can easily corrode everyone’s rights and the rule of law. Therefore, , it is essential for Governments all over the world to strengthen their relationship with Civil Society and trust with people. Scrutiny, debate and even harsh criticism of opinions and institutions, including religious ones, are absolutely intrinsic to the right to freedom of expression.
Many Governments are already fighting nebulous crime organizations that operate within the online environment in order to bring in a common law for online network.
To strengthen trust on Internet, we must reinforce the principles of rule of law, transparency and also have respect for Human Rights. This can be done through a deeper dialogue with all stakeholders. Initiatives that come out of the Civil Society are important, and should be taken seriously.
Significant changes are required to bring the system in place. The scenario that we live in now is the scenario in which trust towards Governments and in major ICT and Telecom companies is completely broken. In order to bring in a change we need to move forward and think about solutions and engage in implementing them.
According to the recent Bali Internet Governance Forum, “Governments around the world should act on protecting online privacy through stronger laws and policies as pervasive electronic surveillance increase. There is an urgent need to overhaul national surveillance practices to protect everyone’s privacy, or risk severely limiting the potential of the Internet.”
Governments need to promote incentives for research, development, and innovation in ICT sector, particularly for building a mail service with encryption by design.
There is also a necessity to observe international law and the existing rules. There is a need to achieve a balance between security and Human Rights. Lastly, there is a need for evidence-based policy making, moving from general reflections to evidences on the concrete issues, and transparency.