One wish that I have for the new year is that the government enforces a law or regulation that upholds net neutrality in India. We need our policies to ensure that the Internet stays free. For instance, 25% of the India’s current user base of 400 million people has come online in the last year itself. India’s access is increasing at an accelerating pace and the prices will come down. There are models that are net neutral which can be used to provide access.
We don’t need telecom operators to perform a gatekeeping function where they are in a position to decide who gets access to which website. We need telecom operators to be neutral. This isn’t about Facebook; it was just colluding with an operator to give itself an advantage.
I wish that net neutrality takes precedence when the government forms its policies in the new year.
In addition, I hope that there is no licensing for services like Skype and WhatsApp calls etc and they should be allowed to function without regulatory oversight. I also wish for stricter regulations against citizen surveillance in the country. Surveillance should only be done through explicit court orders.
I also wish that some sense prevails over this idea of blocking websites. There should not be blanket orders to ban websites which seem to be violating a said regulation. Any sort of blocking of content should be treated on case-by-case basis. Currently, there are John Doe orders where you are free to block whatever you want. During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, hundreds of sites were blocked on such orders, even though many of them weren’t even violating copyrights. We are seeing blanket blocking coming into the picture these days and this isn’t desirable.
Free speech online
As an entrepreneur, the other small thing I really wish for is that the online media continues to be free of licensing or judicial requirements. I think that gives us a lot of space to be freely expressive without having to play the gatekeeper role that the traditional media has been relegated to. The idea of internet is to surpass and jump over the gates and their keepers and it should stay that way. The freedom of expression is of utmost importance.
All of my wishes revolve around the idea of the freedom that the internet gives us. However, one thing I’d like to curtail from this freedom of expression is the amount of hate speech and abuse on the internet. Everyone has the right to offend, but they don’t necessarily have the right to defame or threaten someone just because their opinions don’t match. I really wish that gets toned down.
Overall, there’s a great deal of polarisation in Indian society right now. We would be better off switching off from our political standpoints to positions that are based on policies and treat them on a case-by-case basis rather than blindly rallying behind something or criticising it just because it aligns with our political views. In the end, we need to stop politics from influencing our policy decisions and we have to try to make the discourse a bit more nuanced and intelligent.