What is the Free Speech Tracker?

The Free Speech Tracker is a crowdsourced initiative started by SFLC.in to collect data on free speech violations happening across the country both online and offline. The tracker maintains databases of judgements in the free speech realm, cases that are sub-judice in court, instances of website blocking, art censorship, book bans, cases on intermediary liability etc. The tracker also provides a brief insight into provisions in Indian Laws such as the Indian Penal Code, Information Technology act which pose restrictions on free speech.

What should free speech rights look like?

Different democracies in the world have different Laws on free speech. In the United States, the first amendment gives an absolute right to free speech, in Germany, free speech rights have certain minimum restrictions. In India, there are reasonable restrictions imposed on Freedom of Speech and Expression as well. We feel that Rights under freedom of speech and expression stated under the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights in its Article 19 are an ideal start to begin the discussion on what free speech rights should look like. India is a signatory to ICCPR as well. The rights state -

  1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
  2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
  3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
    • For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
    • For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
Why are we running a Free Speech Tracker?

Right to freedom of speech and expression is the spine of a democractic nation. A tracker like this is a mirror which shows us how deep the water is. This tracker collates information and puts it together for us to reimagine what freedom of speech and expression should look like in the 21st century. Our laws and legislations in light of the changing mediums need a re-assessment if not a complete rethink, the tracker aims to ignite that conversation. By the medium of this tracker, we would like to begin a conversation on what free speech laws in an internet enabled world should look like.

Who can free speech rights be exercised against?

Article 12 of the Constitution of India, defines what a state is. Fundamental rights can only be exercised against the State. A private player cannot be held for the violation of free speech and expression. In our restrictive social media policies we have listed out social media policies of private players and companies as well even though citizens do not have a right against them. We feel that these social media policies deserve a re think.

How do I report instances that are not present in this database?

We have provided reporting links on pages in this tracker. The forms are concise and take around 2-3 mins to fill. We encourage citizens providing us links through the forms for us to track down the issues. You can also send an email to us at mail@sflc.in for any suggestions/comments or invitations for collaborations.

What if I spot inconsistencies in the database?

The tracker aims to collect a vast amount of data and often through secondary sources. We are aware that this means that our data can be incomplete, as any instance that is not reported in news, or that is reported only in regional news may slip undetected by us. We encourage you to write to us at mail@sflc.in with any inconsistencies you may find and use the reporting links for any missing entries.

How can I help?

You can support this website by contributing in a variety of ways, both direct and indirect. You can report a violation that is not visible in our data by using our reporting links, spread the message, donate to encourage our work or even report any bugs that you find on this website. You can also write to us at mail@sflc.in with any comments/suggestions/collaborations that you have in mind. Anything you can do is appreciated. No action is too small.