Across the world, it is seen that more and more restrictions are being imposed on civil liberties of citizens on the internet. Sflc.in aims to protect the interests of Internet users and content creators like bloggers. The Freedom in the Net project aims to understand the problems of internet users across nations and plans to take concrete actions including litigation to protect the digital freedom of citizens.
The major focus of the project has been to work with parliamentarians, industry and civil society to push for modifying the guidelines issued by the Government in the form of the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011. The Central Government has on 11th April 2011, notified the new rules prescribing various guiding principles to be observed by all intermediaries. The rules cast an obligation on the intermediaries to remove access to any content on receiving a complaint from an affected person that it falls under the category of a wide, vague list of “unlawful” content specified in the rules. This vague list includes content considered as ‘blasphemous’, ‘libellous’, ‘grossly harmful’, ‘harassing’, or ‘disparaging’.
While the need for a set of rules governing the rights, duties and obligations of an Intermediary is unquestioned, the rules as presently notified are arguably unconstitutional, arbitrary and vague and could pose a serious threat not only to the business of various Intermediaries in the country but also to the public at large who may face increased instances of censorship and invasion of privacy. The rules clearly exceed the scope of the parent Information Technology Act and in fact, overlap in some areas leading to a lack of clarity on their application.
A free and open internet is an essential component in ensuring a participatory democracy and Sflc.in strives to engage with various stakeholders in protecting the interests of netizens and in enabling a free discourse.