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Millennium Post

Walk the walk, just don’t talk the talk

There’s something called personal opinion, and once upon a time, perhaps ages ago, it was considered sacrosanct in a democracy like ours. It is a myth today and perhaps a privilege that extends to a blessed few behind the red brick and the wall of jammers. Amid a cacophony of scientific inventions, we have been pushed into a world where communication at a one-on-one level and to the masses across the face of the world – is on our fingertips.

We can post a tweet that can become a status on Facebook, get tagged, shared and re-tweeted, re-posted and in a matter of seconds transform into a monster of an opinion that gets riots raging, us arrested, detained and our uncles’ offices ransacked. It is possible. We have seen it happen. And we are assuming that I might have offended anyone, anyone on a high seat.

One can face up to three years’ jail for electronic communications that ‘grossly’ offend or cause ‘annoyance or inconvenience’, or, in case of information known to be false, cause ‘danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, or ill will’.

The furore has been ample, the common man has raised his voice and his fingers in action to protest this severe clamp on ‘opinions’. The government had us thinking that to insult, opine, live, breathe, think (not necessarily in that order) was permissible but as long as we did not push a political supremo or his nephew off the wrong side of the bed.

Hackers across the world got one more weapon in their arsenal to attack. After Kapil Sibal’s fiery debate on a television channel about the necessity of Article 66A (the information technology act), he woke up to a defaced website. Poetic justice much?

We spoke to Anonymous, the group of hackers who successfully (ethical or not, you decide) defaced government sites and those of Mamata Banerjee and Kapil Sibal. We asked them what they had to say about hacking the Minister of Communication’s website..and how. Quoting them – ‘Here is an explanation of why you must protest against IT Act (section 66A etc): Indian government had for years a degree of control over the print and the paid media.

The only reason that the media is covering so many scams today is because of brave people that have worked so hard to expose them. And since there are so many scams, the media just couldn’t ignore and got stronger. All this hue and cry over 66A should have happened long time ago, but it didn’t. It’s happening now because in succession various bizarre cases like the girls’ arrest have come to light. And the media could not ignore it any longer. We wouldn’t say government completely controls the media, but yes it has a degree of control over it. Then there came Facebook and Twitter and various other means of communications over the Internet and the scam exposed over the Internet started having a larger impact. More over when a news spreads like wildfire over the Internet, the paid/press media gain courage to do a story on them. So in essence the Internet Media is freeing the paid and press media. Now the government couldn’t let that happen now could they and hence they formulated some loosely worded laws under the IT Act that they could use and invisibly censor the Internet. Yes invisibly, as the no one is obligated to inform you that you have been censored. You may never even know.

But here is what really happened. The law worded so loosely so as to hide it, was ultimately found and used by other people and that was not what your government intended. Recently you may have heard that the government has modified IT Act to curb its misuse. Don’t be fooled. They are just trying to gain the control back. Their loosely worded law caused chaos and in that chaos something emerged.

That something exposed the law completely. After this “modification” comes into effect, their bizarre cases will not occur. You will not hear someone getting arrested for tweet or post. But the true intention of the law was not to stop individual FB Posts and tweets. It was to curb the Blogs and online media. And they will silently keep trying to control them. Unless you stand now. And act now.’

Do we need free speech? Of course we do. Free speech facilitates thought and without thought, a nation can very well settle in for a longish siesta. However, double edges have us toeing a line that lies dangerously between responsibility and absurd callousness.

If we can take over the world with a post, trigger riots with a tweet, perhaps, we should be a tad bit more sensible. And as current circumstances would have us, pray that the high and the mighty are offline and not interested in FB updates.

Jhinuk Sen is a senior copy editor with Millennium Post
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