In an effort to help strengthen the debate on freedom of expression online in India, the Internet Democracy Project has been conducting pioneering research on a range of related issues. We are organising this Round Table to share the findings of this research for the first time with a wider expert community, and to discuss with this community the main implications of the findings and various difficult questions that they have thrown up or further crystallised in greater depth.
Over the past one year, various incidents affecting free speech on the Internet in India have thrown up a range of challenges, and questions, for those concerned with this issue:
With a growing number of people arrested over alleged speech offences online, concerns that criminal law in India is stifling free speech online have been rising. But beyond the now infamous section 66A of the IT Act, which laws are particularly contentious and why exactly do they constitute a threat to free speech in the Internet age?
When Kapil Sibal was called on to defend section 66A, he argued on several occasions that the provision was necessary to deal with the online harassment and abuse of women. How important is the law for women to deal with such abuse and what other strategies do they draw on?
When the government ordered ISPs to block more than three hundred links in August 2013 to stem rumours that caused people from the North East to flee Bangalore and other India cities, this move was widely criticised as at least in part illegitimate. Was it effective?
In an effort to help strengthen the debate on freedom of expression online in India, the Internet Democracy Project has been conducting pioneering research on each of the above issues. This Round Table now seeks to bring together activists, lawyers, academics and representatives from Internet businesses to, in the first part of the program, share the findings of all three research studies with a wider expert community, and debate them in depth for the first time.
In the second part of the program, we further hope to discuss the main implications of the findings and the various difficult questions that they have thrown up or further crystallised. In particular, as these have emerged in our research as increasingly urgent areas of intervention, we hope to explore more concretely ways in which non-state actors and non-legal strategies (with or without the participation of the State) can help us to move forward on challenges that are currently frequently posited as being first and foremost legal in nature.
Key figures in the field of the Internet and freedom of expression in our country will be joining us for this closed door event, which will take place on 9 April, Conference Hall, TERI, 4th Main, Domlur 2nd Stage, Bangalore, from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm.