Washington Post: The United States can’t keep ignoring India’s Internet abuses - IAMC

Washington Post: The United States can’t keep ignoring India’s Internet abuses

INDIA’S ONGOING offensive against the free Internet is a disgrace that the United States can’t afford to look away from — or it would be, if the United States appeared to be paying any attention in the first place. The cost of this complacency extends beyond the world’s largest democracy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s regime has spent the past few months playing a political pressure game with technology companies. It is demanding takedowns not only of misinformation but also of plain old criticism and plain old truth, and threatening firms with legal action should they fail to comply. Twitter in particular has been a target of the ruling party’s ire, in part because of its occasional resistance to these demands and in part because of its failure so far to concede to a new cybersecurity regulation that mandates that firms appoint local “grievance officers” to attend to complaints within 24 hours. Most recently, India’s minister for information technology claimed that Twitter could lose its immunity for content posted by users as punishment. He made this declaration, of course, on Twitter.

Despite misleading reports to the contrary from local media, the threat was hollow. Whether Twitter keeps its “safe harbor” protections isn’t up to Mr. Modi and his ministers, but to the Indian courts. Yet it is precisely this tension that makes today’s events in the world’s largest democracy so important to the rest of the world: This isn’t China, where any regime-restraining rule of law has long been absent. India’s lurches toward authoritarianism are obstructed by its own institutions — so the ruling party has turned to intimidation tactics to get what it wants, like putting employees’ physical liberty in danger with laws like the cybersecurity regulation.

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