Every two out of three people all over the world who use the internet, live under government surveillance. According to a report, web freedom across the globe has decreased for the sixth year in a row. The report by Freedom House says that governments have cracked down on messaging platforms and social media apps. The study by Freedom House, a US-based think tank, is based on an internet freedom analysis in 65 countries which constitutes almost 88 percent of the global online population. According to the ranking, China was the worst user of web freedom and Syria and Iran came second and third respectively. North Korea was not included in the list.
In India, internet penetration has increased recently, as India overtook America and became the second largest internet consumer base in the World, only behind China. According to the report, government and non-government entities have contributed to bridge the digital divide. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) brought good net neutrality protections this year which stopped the differential pricing by network providers for varying content.
The Supreme Court also upheld laws criminalising defamation which apply to both online and offline speech. Arrests for online activities declined in mid-2015. Many were based on Section 66A of the IT Act, which the Supreme Court declared was unconstitutional in March. The report added, “However, other developments undermined internet freedom. Local authorities ordered service providers to temporarily shut down internet access in at least 23 reported incidents in various states. In 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition challenging the use of broad powers provided to state governments under the criminal procedure code to shut down internet services.”
The report said that local authorities have used Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (1973) to justify blockages but it lacks a clear law. Other laws used to justify shutdowns also lack proper guidelines. It adds, “Section 69A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, which permits the central government to order website blocks has been considered to apply to the blocking of service. Section 5 of the Indian Telegraph Act, which allows state and central authorities to order that any message not is transmitted in public emergencies, has also been cited in support of service disruptions.”