Free Speech Implications of Blocking Blog Posts in India

India’s got some new, draconian Interne law rules. Netizens and human rights advocates are slamming it as an attack on free speech.

India’s Free Speech-Unfriendly Blog Laws

Under the new guidelines, anyone — private citizen or political party — can request bans on websites that contain “objectionable material”. The criteria for objectionable content include, but are not limited to:

  1. Threats to the sovereign integrity of India,
  2. The security of the state,
  3. Friendly relations with foreign states, and
  4. Public order.

Sweeping Law Language Leads to Free Speech Infringement Fears

In theory, the move seems justified, but actual practice unearths many of its problems. For starters, objectionable content is 100% subjective, which means it can be used to censor or prohibit topics. The move also severely limits bloggers’ ability to post unpopular opinions, or to jump start a good debate.

Worse, web content is often taken down without any explanation, leaving site owners with no recourse to defend themselves, or gain third party adjudication for their case. Social networking sites like Facebook or YouTube, for example, must take down what Indian law has declared unfit for web surfers within 36 hours — and the web content owner can’t appeal.