Internet Freedom In India Improves
While governments all over the world are tightening their grip over information and expression on the World Wide Web, India showed a remarkable improvement when it comes to Internet freedom. The findings were based on a report by Freedom House, an independent watchdog.
According to the report, India scored 42 points this year, an improvement of five points over the previous reporting period. The US remained relatively free compared with the rest of the world with a total score of 19, the report said. “Any report on Internet freedom that ranks US as free cannot be taken seriously,” said Sunil Abraham, executive director of Centre for Internet and Society in a report. “There is massive intellectual property rights (IPR)-related censorship in the US, which Freedom House does not consider censorship, and the total surveillance regime of the National Security Agency that resulted in self-censorship was also ignored by Freedom House,” he said.
Globally, however, a growing number of countries are introducing more aggressive online censorship and monitoring practices, said the report. Of the 65 countries assessed, 36 saw a decline in Internet freedom. The most significant declines were in Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Iran, Syria and China are the world’s worst abusers of Internet freedom.
The report observes that more people are being arrested for their Internet activity than ever before, online media outlets are increasingly pressured to censor themselves or face legal penalties, and private companies are facing new demands to comply with government requests for data or deletions.
A low score indicates higher Internet freedom. Despite improvement, the report suggests that India is “partly free.” indicating that the government is continuing to develop the Central Monitoring System. This ambitious nation-wide surveillance program allows authorities to monitor individuals’ digital communications directly without issuing orders to service providers, written or otherwise,” said the report. In India, curbs on content and arrests related to online publishing under Section 66A of the IT Act declined in the past year.
Currently, the government can retrieve data from intermediaries such as Internet service providers, which are required to install infrastructure for surveillance and keyword scanning of all traffic passing through each gateway. For example, it can intercept any online activities, phone calls, text messages and even social media conversations in real time by directly accessing interception equipment on intermediary premises. The Indian government also requested user information from international Web-based platforms including Google, Facebook and Twitter.
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