Karnataka

'Rights, both online and offline, should be the same'

Carl Bildt, the former Prime Minister of Sweden and Chair of the Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG), was in the city to attend the two-day conference ‘Cyber 360’.

Carl Bildt, the former Prime Minister of Sweden and Chair of the Global Commission on Internet Governance (GCIG), was in the city to attend the two-day conference ‘Cyber 360’. The Commission had its consultative meeting and is expected to submit its report suggesting a strategic vision for the future of Internet governance by April next year. The Hindu spoke to him on issues regarding Internet governance in the country.

The recent draft of National Encryption Policy received much flak. How do you view the State’s attempts at policing the Internet and the concerns of citizens’ privacy?

There should be same rights both online and offline. Just as the State monitors the real world, there is a need for policing the Internet as well. We have deliberated on the recent encryption policy, and the GCIG is in favour of protecting encryption, because you can’t effectively try and limit it in one country. There is easy access to other means of encryptions, which may not be safe. To put it bluntly, if India bans encryption, some may get Chinese encryption. So the net gain for India would be non-existent.

Hate speech, radical propaganda and recruitment by groups like the Islamic State are put up as defence for such measures.

In Sweden, we have a very strong tradition of freedom of expression. But we have restrictions on hate speech, which extends to the Internet as well. Each country has its own tradition, which India should also pragmatically look at. But the best defence of freedom of expression is freedom itself. At least now, these radicals like IS are in the open world wide web with their propaganda and recruitment. We are able to see them and counter-act. If we control it, they may go into other channels like the dark web.

Rumour-mongering and distortion of facts on social media has led to riot-like situations in the country. How can this be dealt with?

Things spread very fast on social media. But people have to test the content. We are in an early stage of social media. We are now used to mass media. We know that what appears in newspapers and television is true. As a community, we are yet to reach such social maturity with regard to the Internet.

The Indian government has announced the Digital India initiative. Zero-rating platforms claim to connect the next billion as concerns of net neutrality exist.

Digital India is a great initiative to build connectivity. It is most appropriate at this stage for India. We did a comparative study of Digital India and China’s ‘Internet Plus’ recently. With a higher penetration, China is trying to do advanced things. But Digital India will build connectivity in the area. Zero-rating platforms are only a part of this, although they do have positive outcomes. Internet.org or Airtel Zero is not net neutral. But it brings a low bandwidth to communities that otherwise are not able to access the Internet. This is the positive side of hope that these communities will later move on to higher bandwidth.

But these have commercial benefits. In the long run, these platforms won’t work as the hunger for digital data will outgrow them and users will not be constrained by these applications. What is actually needed is building of high-capacity networks.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 12:28:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/rights-both-online-and-offline-should-be-the-same/article7705717.ece

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