Monday, June 20, 2011

Arindham Chaudhary and the IT Act

I usually don't watch TV. Or better put it this way; I don't spend much time on TV shows. Recently, while I was in Shimla on summer vacation, I was checking facilities provided by our hotel.  I checked plugs, bed sheets, ashtrays, bathroom and everything. Then I turned on TV just to check it out whether it was working or not.

It was working. There was a man on the screen: Arindham Chaudhary.

I don't know much about this man. But, I have taken him granted  as one of youth icons in India. He or his family runs one of the most famous education franchise; IIPM. I know they do lots of advertisement,  because of that, I doubt their quality. I have heard he has written some books too. Once I found him spending lots of cash to ask people to follow him on twitter. Few people do so, and I don't think an icon should.

Most unbearable was the time when I saw him on TV. That was not some speech or talks in a program. Rather it was advertisement, a showcase of Mr. Chaudhary himself. He whole heartedly supported/shouted recently passed Indian IT Act. Almost all the youths and aware public are against it, (obviously including internet entrepreneurs and geeks) the icon comes on 21 inch flat screen and says 'It must be enforced.' (I think you have seen his self proclaimed promo)

Well, numerous articles/essays are written against the Act. I think I don't need to write one. See some of the links you can refer if you are unaware of it.


Rules that allow anybody to simply tell a website or blog to take down any content that is in your eyes “grossly harmful, hateful, invasive of others’ privacy, blasphemous, threatens friendly relations with foreign States or threatens the unity of India” among a milelong list of potential no-nos.
I’m certain any odd person can find the Shruti Haasan article “invasive of privacy”, the SKS Microfinance news “grossly harmful” to the company’s prospects, the CPM news “dangerous to State unity” and the government’s own anti- Pak claims as “threatening to friendly relations with foreign states”. And if you happen to be one of those who decides that your sentiments are hurt, all you need to do is to send a signed letter to the publisher and bingo, they are rule-bound to take it down. No legal authority to decide whether your claim is right or not but hey, the content goes down right away.

And he gives some ways to fight back.

Increasingly, online is the medium that is scaring authority everywhere, from Tunis to Tripoli to 10, Janpath. And the new rules are just that — a ham-handed approach to muzzling what’s said online. And it’s high time we did something to stop this embarrassing stupidity from being part of our canon of laws.
The first thing to do is to put this in perspective. Online is now the mainstream medium and ‘they’ know it. They are doing this because digital is now bigger than traditional media. There are already about 108 million Internet users and only about 103 million households have access to cable and satellite television.
Second, use a loophole. If you are scared about what you might say online, do so on a website that has no office in India — our laws can’t touch them.
Third, popularise the controversial content. Spread it around to friends. ‘Like’ it or retweet it.
Fourth, use it against the government. Put a thousand complaints against the government’s own websites. Start with India.gov.in and congress.org.in
Fifth, fight it. I do wait for the right case and civil society lawyers who can help stop this silly piece of legislation from changing the way we live and share information online. The Internet, as our babus will soon understand, cannot be controlled.