The Save the Internet campaign—that has flooded telecom regulator Trai’s inbox with over a million mails espousing absolute net neutrality—demonstrates how powerful a tool social media has become to influence public opinion. The #MillionMailMission will, no doubt, put pressure on the government to endorse the activists’ stand, even though doing so will curtail universal internet access severely in India by limiting telcos’ capacity to expand coverage in rural areas.
Mobilising public opinion through the net, in the age of websites like change.org and Twitter campaigns, is at the front-line of any PR campaign. Internet activism’s ease of management—Twitter campaigns are based on 140 characters and a hashtag —makes it the perfect vehicle to draw out the net-savvy public in a country like India to support a cause. The Save the Internet campaign itself is being managed by some four dozen activists and crossed the one-million mark with a day to spare from its targeted deadline. An eponymous campaign on net neutrality in the US caused the Federal Communications Commission’s servers to crash on September 15 last year as 3.7 million comments were posted on its website. The entire India Against Corruption campaign—that saw the germination of the Aam Aadmi Party—was run on Facebook, while the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS awareness was a Twitter phenomenon that spilled over to other social media. Though the Cellular Operators Association of India has just launched a counter-campaign, #SabkaInternet, it is unfortunate that telcos may have missed the bus and thus lost a perception battle.