Monday, March 21, 2011

10 things we can we do when the government shuts down the internet

First, the government moved ahead and made rules to shut our voice. Then, it went ahead and  made rules to shut down our access to independent voices and information.

The Economic Times reports that our enlightened government (read a few top bureaucrats and assorted politicians) has made some changes to the already troublesome IT Act 2008, giving some government servants the power over all ISPs, blocking the internet for all practical purposes.

They have invoked the old 'National Security in Danger' scenario:
The shutdown can happen in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, its defense, security of its states, friendly relations with foreign states or for public order. Failure to comply will result in imprisonment of up to seven years.  
Actually, most of these bureaucrats and politicians, who make such citizen-hating laws, are more dangerous to Indians, and to the idea of a India, than the fear-mongering reasons they cite for creating laws and bye-laws.

I would like to think that it is only pure coincidence that our current minster for Information and broadcasting, Ambika Soni, worked alongside Sanjay Gandhi, who made his name during emergency days in the 70s, when Indira Gandhi muzzled the press ( and did much more) in name of National security.

Consider our 'democratic' setup, if you will. Most of our lawmakers in the parliaments win by narrow margins. Only half the population votes (the average voting percentage is always around 50%). These elected representatives go on to 'rule' our country. And, you cannot recall them over any issue. Rules such as these (shutting the internet) call for immediate recall of our MPs. But we can't do that. I hear Switzerland has 1-year terms for its elected representatives.

It is even worse in case of our bureaucrats. Politicians can be recalled, or at least voted out of power. It is extremely hard to remove or punish a bureaucrat. They have created many rules just to save themselves from situations like these.

The proposed 'kill switch': Is it feasible?
The oft-quoted cyber law expert Pavan Duggal (Isn't it strange that we have so few cyber law experts?) says in the Economic Times story:

Although it may be technically possible to block the net in India, theoretically it may be very difficult given the dynamic nature of the constitution and the judiciary.
10 options do we have in case someone actually 'kills' the internet
1. Go to the courts (fight for your fundamental rights)
2. Use Right to Information (RTI)
3. Get some people and file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL)
4. Buy Ham Radio sets and learn to use them
5. Make international calls to foreign ISPs
6. Use expensive/unauthorized satellite internet
7. Establish rogue radio stations (Radio Raghav, Community FM)
8. Start something like Citizen Band (CB) radios in the United States (In India, it will be illegal to use these)
9. Make Voice Calls which get onto Twitter (Re: the Egypt Uprisings, where Google launched Voice Call-to-Twitter service)
10. Copy all kinds of available information and distribute freely: Keep Manual Printing Press handy. Download the full Wikipedia and re-purpose it in various formats
11. Prepare: Throughout human history, a group of people has tried to rule by force on others, by all means necessary, including obscure laws created by pseudo-democratic set ups. Start by making friends with people who believe in liberty for all.

Also read
If your government shuts down blogging, shut down your government

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