The evolution of technology impacts the nature of conflict and war. Amongst the recent aspects of involving in conflict is “no contact war” (NCW) wherein there is no “physical” or “kinetic” action. Recently many instances where terrorist organizations & radical groups using cyber platform to disturb public harmony has increased.
To police a Cyberspace, an Expert committee suggested to bring within the ambit of IPC (through amendments to Sections 153 and 505 of IPC) any visual, audio, video, verbal or written communication, transmitted or re-transmitted through any telecommunication service, device or computer.
They propose that any speech that is disparaging, offensive, indecent, abusive, hate, gravely threatening — and so interpreted — be criminalised. These provoke communal violence, hurt sentiments of people, promote hate crime, Harmony and peace of country is tarnished and also promote fake and false news sometimes.
Pros of Criminalization of Cyber Speech:
1) Cyberbullying, trolls, intimidation etc. in case of disagreement are noticed frequently.
2) Cases of using cyber world to spread hoax, fake news etc. have become common.
3) Criminalisation of cyber speech would discourage cyber hacktivist and cyber dissidents to take up issue on a particular issue that plaguing the society and to speak for the marginalized and backward community.
4) Cyber world is being used by terrorist organizations to radicalize and recruit youth.
5) Lack of any regulation of what is being spoken on Internet, what is shared is causing immense damage as reach of these messages are large & very quick.
Cons of Criminalization of Cyber Speech:
1) Freedom of speech is bedrock of democracy, hence it needs to be protected. These cyber rules should not curtail one’s freedom of expression.
2) Criminalisation of speech will work against the Democratic principal -> debate and discussion will then would have no meaning.
3) Restrictions imposed by Art 19(2) of the Constitution on grounds of public order, morality etc. may be misused.
4) Criminalisation would promote an intolerant society and deny the right to dissent.
5) Criminalisation would encourage political parties to further their personal agenda.
6) Instances of Journalists and Caricaturists being arrested over free speech might increase.
-> There should be certain criteria for a cyber speech to be eligible as criminal or hate speech. For example, if a speech provoke communal violence then it should be considered for criminalisation. Speech which represents genuine points and concerns of society should be allowed freely to take place.
-> Government should constitute an appropriate committee do the homework about pros and cons before taking such steps of criminalisation of cyber speech.
-> The government, Civil society and media needs to work in sync to control the wrongful use of cyberspace.
-> The reasonable restriction enshrined in the constitution to protect Indian integrity and sovereignty, law and order should also applies to online speeches.
-> There is a need for India to have a law with well-defined guidelines which can prevent improper use of Cyber space without taking away the fundamental character of Indian democracy.
-> India should also have an effective cyber deterrence policy, which include three aspects to strengthen cyber security – Improve cybersecurity, employ active defenses and establish international norms for cyberspace.
As today about 64% of the readers gets their news online. With prevalence of Whatsapp, Facebook, etc. Social Media today influence more than anything else. Lone Wolf attacks today are blamed on Fake News. So, Government should consider the dynamism involved in the issue and try to find out the balanced solution through appropriate policy measures.
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