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Bangaloreans Don't Want Net Censorship. But Some Do.

Are we Bangaloreans  comfortable with the idea of our government censoring what we can and cannot see on the internet? Are we okay with the government making this choice for us?

Speaking to 17 Bangaloreans, we strip away the shades of grey as we attempt to find answers to how Bangaloreans feel about the same. In simple black-and-white terms: is it a yes or no?

Our ‘census’ threw up an overwhelming majority not in favour of censorship. Freedom of expression, some said. Fundamental rights, others said. The government? Don’t trust them. They have their own agenda.

But what about our agenda? One where we want all our information neatly arranged and accessible, within a click’s reach, but nothing so harmful as to affect the impressionable minds of all our children? Or the security of our nation? How do we have censorship and no censorship, all at the same time, then?

Checks and balances. Apparently, that’s the answer.

 


Praveen Sood

Additional Director General Police Computer Wing & Commissioner For Traffic and Road Safety, Karnataka

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
The Internet cannot be censored. It is virtually impossible to do so. Only limited attempts can be made in this regard.

(If yes) what should be censored?
Anything that endangers the security of the country, spreads hatred, creates panic, baseless rumours etc. Of course, all of these are also subjective. For instance, what is termed as terrorism by one is referred to as freedom struggle by the opposite party.

Who should be the censor? The government?
If we’re going to censor, particularly when it comes to issues of security and maintaining public order, it can only be the government. People can’t be the best judge of that – that being matters which concerns the security of the nation. Of course, even where the government is involved, there must be adequate safeguards and a proper mechanism in place.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
There will be some amount of distrust always. There have to checks and balances in place in order to minimise such distrust.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today? (If yes, how?)
No, I don’t think so. In any case, any censorship that exists today is restricted to only 3 or 4 areas, and that too only with respect to security and maintenance of public order. Which I believe is being done.

 


Bushra Shariff

Manager of alternative musicians and bands; programming head at The Humming Tree

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
No.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
I think the government censors too much in real life already. The government is silly enough to ban lingerie-clad mannequins; I don’t trust them with my information intake from the Internet.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today? (If yes, how?)
It isn't. We are at a stage where democracy is a real tangible, executable concept and the Internet is the only medium that allows that.

 

Sadiqa Peerbhoy

Columnist, writer, creative director

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
There should be some censorship with clearly defined rules as to what must be edited.

(If yes) what should be censored?

YouTube, blogs, anywhere where people can upload freely… even Twitter

Who should be the censor? The government?
An independent body of professionals and intellectuals pickled from various streams.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
The government is full of fuddy duddy stodgy old men who do not know their Yahoo from their Chrome. They should be kept far away from the Internet and the appointed body given a free reign.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today? (If yes, how?)
Marginally so now, what with schoolboys browsing porn sites. But it can only grow in reach and effect in the years to come And most of us to take our dose of technologically delivered information as gospel truth.

 


Andaleeb Wajid

Author

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
If by censorship you mean preventing people from posting their thoughts and opinions on certain issues just because it affects powerful and connected people, then I don’t think the Internet should be censored.

(If yes) what should be censored?
I don't believe there should be censorship. However, this has also led to online bullying and trolling by individuals who use this very lack of censorship to their own advantage. There should be a way to moderate and prevent that.

Who should be the censor? The government?
No censor, and certainly not the government.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
I don't think so.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today? (If yes, how?)
There should be some sort of moderation to prevent online bullying and trolling rather than censorship. If people use the right of free speech to excessively abuse and hurt other people with their comments, there should be something one can do rather than just ignore them.

 

Prasad Bidapa

Celebrity stylist

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
We live in a free world I presume. The idea of anyone censoring anything is abhorrent to me.

(If yes) what should be censored?

If content is harmful like child porn or something threatening national security, then yes, there is a need to block it. I think access to religious hate sites should definitely be blocked.

Who should be the censor? The government?
God forbid. The thought of Sheila Dixit surfing websites looking for something to censor is too scary. I think the solution is to lay down guidelines, which, if violated, will result in punishment and this should be done by educationists and members of civil society.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
The government has proved itself incapable of being trusted in any matter. When it comes to censorship you can be sure it will be misused.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today?
In the way the Al Qaida can corrupt impressionable minds, in the way telemarketers hound us mercilessly, in the way cheap Bollywood films use item girls to titillate - there are a lot of areas that could do with some censoring. But society will survive regardless of this because people are intelligent and can make their own choices.

 


Ali Bheda

IT sales and marketing professional

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
No.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
No. Governments are always eager to hide their mistakes. If Internet censorship begins, it will block freedom of speech and knowledge.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today?
Yes. There are a few things that affect the society that should be blocked for viewing, either on the basis of age or location. But, on the other hand, it also gives people a chance to know things that they wouldn't have known otherwise.

 


Arun Manesh

Business Development Head at a financial product development company

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
Yes, I think the Internet requires censorship to a degree.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
It depends on who is given the job. Someone who is well aware of internet trends and user behaviour would be ideal, rather than the government which might censor content to suit their own agenda.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today? (If yes, how?)
No. I think we are aware of what we browse and why. There are various ways to access prohibited content and if people really want to, they can easily do so.

 


Abhinav Shrivastava

Technology and Media Advisory Lawyer

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
Yes, to a limited extent it should be censored.

(If yes) what should be censored?
I believe that content that encourages extreme forms of delinquency, or extreme depravity, should be censored. This includes content like child pornography or bomb making or content that is intended to lead to violence or incitement.

Who should be the censor? The government?
I believe that any form of regulation that relies on a command and control mechanism, with a regulatory authority (such as a government) issuing commands, is doomed to fail. Rather than the government, I would prefer an industry body, involving the government, key stakeholders in Internet  (such as Internet Service Providers and content produces or disseminators like Google.com) and users to be involved.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
No, any government or party will seek to further its term in power by limiting or censoring content that is inconvenient or undesirable.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today? (If yes, how?)
Personally I don’t think that censorship has ever been completely absent. The state, especially in India, has taken up the role of a paternal arbiter of moral and immoral content (through acts like banning Lady Chatterly’s Lover and the Pink Floyd album ‘The Wall’ in India). I find this disturbing as it assumes that people, and society in general, are not mature enough to make an informed choice as to their moral quotient. Such instances of resorting to banning or censoring content with ease on whimsical grounds (like morality etc) adversely affects society as it restricts free speech, limits the emergence of liberal thought and enables the exercise of the 'heckler's veto' by far-right and fundamentalist groups.

 


Anamika Chanda

Apparel Designer and Fashion Stylist

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
Yes, I think the Internet should be censored.

(If yes) what should be censored?
Everything that we see and hear affects us in both ways, negative and positive.What should be censored is very relative. Sensitive information, which might harm one’s line of thought, should be sectioned and monitored.

Who should be the censor? The government?
The government should have some guidelines that should be applicable on all sites. Website owners should filter the information they put up.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
Well, if the right people are given the authority to decide within the government, then I am sure it will help.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today? (If yes, how?)
The decision to access, interpret and act on information provided on the Internet is an individual choice. The problem is we are talking about billions of minds of all age groups. There is a high possibility of the human mind getting obsessed with a certain kind of information which could just be a source of income for the website owner. The government/authority can neutralise/prevent that outcome just by making all Internet users follow certain vital guidelines and watch out for unusual activities for everyone’s safety, because that is the reason why they are there in the first place.

 


Dennis Mathen

Involved in business development for an electronic company

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
Censorship is uncalled for. But, minors need to be protected from things like nudity, lewd jokes and messages that commoditise women etc.

Who should be the censor? The government?
If there must be a censor, then a non-government agency, with no affiliations to any government body should be chosen. Their interference should only be with regard to content or information that is potentially a security threat to the country, a group or an individual.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
There is distrust when it comes to anything concerning the government and you get the feeling that they are likely to curtail information that is damaging to their party or tenure.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today? (If yes, how?)
My daughter is young. As a father, I am responsible for what she sees or does. I know I am indulging in censorship myself, but she's a minor and I must take care till she is an adult. As long we as parents take care of our children’s Internet and television usage, society will be fine.

 


Pranshu Bhutra

Associate Legal Manager at ITC

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
Yes, to a limited extent. For example, it should be censored to ensure that it is not a medium for say, distribution of child pornography or financing terrorist related activities. Freedom is good, but a line must be drawn. And we, as civil society, must agree on certain activities where censorship is mandatory and healthy for a progressive society.

(If yes) what should be censored?
Child pornography, activities related to financing and abetting of terrorism among others.

Who should be the censor? The government?
I am not too sure that a government is ALWAYS the best judge of the welfare of the people it governs. We could have a multi-disciplinary body, say in the likes of ASCI, consisting of members of civil society, deciding on whether a website needs to be shut down or not. Again, the body should be created by parliament, must be independent and its members can only be impeached by parliament. Members of such an organisation should be appointed by various arms of the Indian State and not just the government of the day. Candidates, who are being considered for appointment to such an institution must exhibit evidence of their work in the area of, for example, Internet Freedom. The alternative, which is to have bureaucrats or members of the political party monitor and regulate Internet in India, is not advisable. The government censoring the Internet would lead us to a scenario where caricatures of Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh would be banned from Facebook.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
We have seen enough and more examples in the recent past where the government has clamped down on politically inconvenient satire.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today? (If yes, how?)
Many candid videos of individuals having sexual intercourse, taken without their approval and/or knowledge are floating in cyber space. Hence, an individual’s right to publish his work cannot be at the cost of someone’s privacy. There needs to be regulation; that I am certain of.

 


Sonam Nayak

Art Director

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
I believe Internet shouldn't be censored. What to access or not to access on the Internet should be a matter of personal choice, not somebody else’s will and moral judgement.

I feel that if we give control to a team or individual, then we will eventually go back to the era when all access to information was regulated by the self-proclaimed high-class Brahmins. Now, we will have a bunch of people sitting to make decisions for us, and let’s not forget how influential our politics is and how much money can talk in our country.

Who should be the censor? The government? Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
The government is far from being worthy of trust, when it comes to regulating the country’s access to endless information. Misuse will be a given fact. Censoring Internet is parental guidance for the whole country.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today? (If yes, how?)
Let's just understand and accept the fact that if somebody decides that she/he wants to see or access some hazardous information, then no one and nothing can stop him or her. Some way or the other, she/ he will find a way to get the information. Like in the days before Internet, sex for money was definitely illegal, yet red-light areas were thriving. All these arguments trickle down to one fact that it’s a matter of individual choice and moral judgement.

Not only should my right to information remain with me, but also the amount of information I have access to.

 


Poonacha Machaiah

Entrepreneur

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
No. We should be able to exercise our freedom of speech and right to express. Having said that, people also have to be judicious about what they say and do.

(If yes) What should be censored?
If you had to censor, then I’d say stuff like porn etc. There needs to be a way to rate the content available on the Internet, such that anything that is an extreme is censored. .

Who should be the censor? The government?
The content on the Internet and its censorship should be a self-curated exercise. Something like Wikipedia. It needs to be self governed to a large extent; the community that curates the content needs to highlight the power of the crowd, that is, the collective opinion.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
Every government monitors activity on the Internet in order to protect the security of the nation etc. I’m okay with that. There is a difference between monitoring and censorship, and censorship usually tends to prevent access. Censoring, in effect, affects education.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today? (If yes, how?)
No, I don’t think so. If people have to find information, they will find it any which way. In fact, it’s the act of censoring that arouses curiosity and ends up making the situation worse.

 


Amit Gaurav

Marketing Professional

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
Of course not. It’s the only source of right education we have.

Who should be the censor? The government?
If at all censorship happens (an unfortunate thing to begin with), I don’t think the government is the right body. Maybe it can be a private body comprising selective established people from art, science and commerce etc.

Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
Trust and government don't go together

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today?
I don't think it is adversely affecting. People will absorb and process information based on their own values, understanding and sentiments.

 


Terrence Joshua

Works in an international retail company

Do you believe the Internet should be censored?
Absolutely not! It's a free world.

Who should be the censor? The government?  Do you think the government can be trusted not to censor areas that are politically inconvenient?
I'm not in favour of any censorship. I believe the government will do what they "believe" is right. So no, I don't trust them.

Do you think the absence of censorship is adversely affecting society today?
In fact, censoring it will adversely affect the society. The Internet has greater reach than any other medium. It's instantaneous. It has the potential to draw large-scale and immediate attention to important causes. Censorship will end up curtailing such efforts.