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India Backs New Cyber Law Regime
Apr 29, 2014

India pressed for a new cyber jurisprudence independent of political compulsions in an effort to deal with Cyber Crimes. India made this proposal at the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on April 23-24.

The government’s submission to the meeting states, “A mechanism for accountability should be put in place in respect of crimes committed in cyberspace, so the internet is a free and secure space for universal benefaction. A ‘new cyber jurisprudence’ needs to be evolved to deal with Cyber Crimes, without being limited by political boundaries, so cyber-justice can be delivered in near real time.” The note stresses that governments, organisations and individuals must take steps to enhance the security of information technology. It also says structures that manage and regulate core internet resources need to be made democratic.

NETmundial, a conference in Sao Paulo to thrash out principles for internet governance, had ended on an irresolute note. There were 188 proposals that spoke of human rights, privacy, national security, and information access, as well as reform of the multi-stakeholder concept that seeks to keep the internet free of overweening government. control. Even if its outcome is a non-binding document, Brazil’s initiative is a necessary one.

The internet is a zone exempt from an international legal framework, or even common rules governing it. This is because of the nature of the internet, consisting of a diffuse set of unowned technologies, where protocols are generated through open processes and unincorporated organisations. But the lack of a structure for cooperation, or even interlocking structures, to negotiate the interests of users, corporations and governments, has been a source of great anxiety around the world, not just for control-freakish states like China and Russia, especially after the revelations of NSA surveillance established that the informal US stewardship was not as benign as once imagined, and that there was no real recourse for a non-US citizen against these intrusions.

ICANN, which performs the functions of top-level numbering and name assignments, is relinquishing part of its functions to a more internationalised system, but the US insists on a “multi-stakeholder” oversight body, rather than one solely controlled by governments through the UN’s International Telecommunication Union etc. While a multilateral government takeover is a mere bogey, there has been much debate around the convenient emptiness of the multi-stakeholder concept, and the ways it may end up serving the needs of powerful corporations with the imprimatur of civil society.

There is no single answer. Internet governance would necessarily have to be a plural arrangement with a role for democratic governments as well as multi-stakeholder forums. Meanwhile, before offering to lead such negotiations, national governments should enact their own internet constitutions in line with the future they would like to see.

Brazil has just passed a groundbreaking civil rights bill for the internet, Marco Civil da Internet, underscoring its commitment to user rights and net neutrality. India’s position envisions greater say to governments, and accountability on the nature of civil society participation. But these fine words are undercut by its own failure in catalysing such a conversation, and its record on internet freedom and privacy.


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