Opposing the government’s decision of having a global body to regulate Internet content, India Inc as well civil society groups today said that India should withdraw its consent to such a proposal. Besides, they argued that the government had taken a unilateral decision on Internet governance, without discussing it with the civil society members, industry or academicians.
India had favoured an international proposal to regulate Internet content through a United Nations Committee on Internet Related Policies (CIRP) comprising 50 bureaucrats from the UN Member countries. India concurred with the CIRP on October 26, 2011 by making a statement at the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“The government should immediately withdraw or refine its stand at UN,” Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha said at the panel discussion on ‘India’s Position in the UN on Internet Governance' organised by industry body FICCI.
He said, “CIRP is an unacceptable proposition. It is very intrusive and will only distort things further”, and added, “cyber security issue is a very small part of CIRP and there are better ways to beef up the security of the country than CIRP. By supporting UN-CIRP, we will allow the UN to control what we access through internet. Also CIRP is not helping internet penetration in India in any way”.
There were divergent views as well. While, the industry and civil society viewed the India’s stand is going to hurt freedom of speech, Ambassador A Gopinathan, India’s former Permanent Representative to UN in Geneva, was of the view that the governance model, which India is advocating, is multilateral, transparent and democratic in nature. “The government is in no way taking away the right to expression from its people. It is only trying to oversee the activities on internet to avoid any unfortunate incident,” he added.
Need for multi-stake holder discussions
Virat Bhatia, Chairman, Communication and Digital Economy Committee at FICCI, said that the government’s decision on this issue had triggered a debate in the country and put a question mark on the proposal, which was submitted in the UN. The debate deliberated on whether India’s stand is justified or not? Whether it was ethical to take a stand of this magnitude without informing the stakeholders and many more such questions were raised and answered during the meeting.
FICCI is going to compile the suggestions made by the panelists during today's discussion and submit it to the government.
India’s proposal in UN for internet governance
In October 2011, the India submitted a proposal for establishment of a new institutional mechanism for global internet governance by way of the United Nations Committee on Internet Related Policy (UN-CIRP).
The way forward
To have India’s voice heard on the global forums, “There should be more representation of India at global forums,” Sunil Abraham, Executive Director, Center for Internet and Society said. While, Govind, head of department for Internet governance at department of Electronics and IT said , “ government is already doing its bit but it’s the industry and the academician , who should come forward and cooperate with the government on the issue.”