India expanding censorship regime, creating uneven playing field: study

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Source: The post is based on the article “India expanding censorship regime, creating uneven playing field: study” published in “The Hindu” on 6th October 2023

What is the News?

Freedom House, a Washington-based non-profit organization has released a report titled “Freedom on the Net 2023: The Repressive Power of Artificial Intelligence”.

What is the Freedom on the Net report?

Freedom on the Net is an annual study of human rights in the digital sphere. 

The report assesses internet freedom in 70 countries, accounting for almost 89 percent of the world’s internet users. 

This report covered developments between June 2022 and May 2023. 

What are the key findings of the Freedom on the Net report?

Source: The Hindu

Global Internet Freedom Decline: Internet freedom has declined globally for the 13th consecutive year.Out of 70 countries assessed, 29 have witnessed a deterioration in online human rights, while only 20 have shown improvements.

Worst country for Internet Freedom: China was ranked as the world’s worst environment for Internet freedom for the ninth consecutive year.Myanmar emerged as the world’s second most repressive country for online freedom.

– Iran also experienced a significant increase in digital repression, including Internet shutdowns and social media blockages during anti-government protests.

Legal Consequences for Online Expression: A record 55 countries saw individuals facing legal repercussions for online expression.

– The number of countries imposing arrests and long prison terms for online activities has risen from 18 in 2014 to 31 in 2023.

Elections as Triggers: Elections often serve as triggers for digital repression.Incumbent leaders frequently criminalize speech, block independent news sites, and control information to influence election outcomes.

What are the key findings of the report related to India?

India’s Censorship measures: India has incorporated censorship including the use of automated systems, into the country’s legal framework. 

– The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules require large social media platforms to use AI-based moderation tools for broadly defined types of content — such as speech that could undermine public order, decency, morality, or the country’s sovereignty, integrity, and security, or content that officials had previously ordered removed.

Censorship methods adopted by India: The report evaluates countries on five censorship methods — Internet connectivity restrictions, blocks on social media platforms, blocks on websites, blocks on VPNs, and forced removal of content.

– India engaged in all forms of censorship methods except one (VPN blocking).

Digital Freedom score: India received a score of 50 on a scale of 1 to 100 for Digital freedom where ‘100’ represented highest digital freedom.Iceland had the highest Internet freedom with a score of 94.

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