Taming The Internet?

There are no two opinions that more than 50% of the government in any democracy consists of first rate fools. This percentage goes up if the survival of the government depends on coalition partners. Worst if the government purchases votes for winning a confidence vote in the parliament. If such a government is afflicted by corruption, scams & scandals, it is nothing surprising. If such a government faces the criticism of the Opposition, it is only natural. If the government bullies the legitimate criticism of its corruption and scams into silence, protests from civil society are only logical. When the government hectors the civil society, it invites acidic comments on the internet and social media sites.

Any government that displays autocratic tendencies in a democracy is doomed. When its ministers behave impolite and aggressive, it provokes public anger. When its supporters resort to vulgar language against civil society or people opposing it generally, it speaks the most inflammatory language. The violence of the treasury benches and the alliance parties draws intense public anger and hatred. The last nail is driven by TV channels attempting to justify all these acts of commission and omission. The press supports corruption and the corrupt when its TV anchors indulge in the most  reprehensible hectoring of participants not toeing the government line. The misuse of the editorials in newspapers makes it abundantly clear that corruption in high places has strong support from the media too. After all the media is a business, run by businessmen, needing investment giving good returns. The “independence” of the Fourth Estate is a hollow myth. In the democracy featured in the foregoing, the press & the media is nothing more than the Fifth Column of the government. The political influence they wield is more satisfying and rewarding than mere compliments from the ordinary citizens on high standards of neutral view and fearless journalism. When the public gets disillusioned to such an extent, as the Indian public has experienced, they give expression to their frustration, fears and forebodings on the internet. In that case, any attempts to control or censor the internet will not be tolerated. The government would be opposed and defeated in this fight for freedom of expression.

The Government of India has, as is usual, constituted a “group” to monitor the content on the social sites and websites. A government that suffers from lack of enough experts to handle vigilance cases in the ministries is dreaming of vetting the web content! Its agencies have created enough confusion by failing to decipher the meaning of the contents of the C&AG report, which are written in straight official language which is not prone to interpretation. Those experts, who process the reports are the highest bureaucrats with acknowledged expertise in their field, and yet they make a mess of everything repeatedly. Imagine what they would do with the content, language  and  the message being conveyed. The government can never afford to be open on any subject and  the websites can never be closed on any subject. The conflict is inbuilt. So the government will find most of the content “inflammatory”, “rumour” or “objectionable”. But aren’t the writers expected to provoke, jolt, cajole the people and the government? It is so because they are independent and visionaries, who can see the long term effects of actions or inactions of the government. The government can’t be permitted to curtail this freedom of expression.

Having advocated the case of freedom of expression, it also needs to be stated that the social media and websites are being abused in several cases. A lot of undesirable expressions are put on the net which should be censored by the host server itself as part of its user terms. The user must disclose all personal details and no comments should be allowed to be posted unless the correct name of the writer is carried. No anonymous material should be accepted. Wrong name or personal details should be treated as a criminal offence and should be filtered by the host server. Hate mongering should be discouraged. All such material should be sent to the concerned authority and if considered necessary published along with the views of the concerned authority.

Words and visuals are more powerful. Once released, they cannot be called back. They only boomerang.  The name of this website points to the significance of exercising total control of the language. As in gymnastics the gymnast is in total control of her body, so are we to achieve total control of our language. Neither is easy, but both are possible. The power of the internet should not be allowed to be wasted because of a handful of mischievous elements or governments consisting of a majority of fools fearing the truth of all acts of omission and commission of the government. Both the government and the internet are to make life happy for the ordinary human beings. No obstacles should be put up on the way.

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