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India's Internet Freedom Improves
Nov 25, 2015

An independent organisation for freedom and democracy Freedom House has said in its report that Internet freedom in India has improved slightly, even as censorship and surveillance of the Web increased world over.

Key Points

  • In the report titled, Freedom on the Net 2015, India's score has improved by 2 points to 40 in 2015 from 42 a year ago (where 0 is the best possible rating).

  • A low score is indication of the reduction in barriers to freedom.

  • Across the world censorship and surveillance of the Internet increased, leading to a decline in overall online freedom for the fifth year in a row.

  • India maintained its position as the third largest Internet consumer base after the United States and China, and saw positive developments in terms of the regulatory framework, declining detentions for online speech, and burgeoning digital access.

  • Increased website blocking and intimidation of Internet users, however, threatened to hamper India's steadily improving Internet freedom.

  • The report labels India among countries where the Internet is only partly free.

  • There were no reported instances of unlawful surveillance, although this may be due to the extreme opacity of the regulatory framework governing surveillance.

  • The report said that news reports indicate that the government is continuing to develop the Central Monitoring System, its ambitious nationwide mass surveillance programme directed at monitoring individuals' digital communications.

  • It also said that the Supreme Court ruling on Section 66A of Information Technology in 2015 dramatically impacted the regulatory framework governing the Internet.

  • The section had resulted in several arrests of individuals for political or social content published on social media between 2012 and early 2015.

  • The report underlines that, in the meantime, Indian law remains inadequate for the effective protection of privacy.

  • Globally, online freedom declined for a fifth consecutive year as more governments stepped up electronic surveillance and clamped down on dissidents using blogs or social media.

  • The report said the setbacks were especially noticeable in the Middle East, reversing gains seen in the Arab Spring, and "notable declines" in Libya, France and Ukraine.

  • The researchers found 61% of the world's population lives in countries where criticism of the government, military or ruling family has been subject to censorship.

  • And 58% live in countries where bloggers or others were jailed for sharing content online on political, social and religious. 

  • In a new trend, many governments seeking to censor content from opponents have shifted their efforts to targeting online platforms, pressuring services like Google, Facebook and Twitter to remove content.

Governments are increasingly pressuring individuals and the private sector to take down or delete offending content, as opposed to relying on blocking and filtering. They know that average users have become more technologically savvy and are often able to circumvent state-imposed blocks. 


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