The Balkanization of the Internet is proceeding rapidly. This process – which threatens to divide the global network into many small geopolitically differentiated networks – started with the Great Chinese Firewall, but is rapidly expanding to Russia (which wants to test a disconnection of its national network) and now also to India.
According to a new bill, the Indian authorities will be able to ask Facebook, Google, Twitter and other platforms to remove content deemed offensive, defamatory or deceptive. Not only that, providers will also be obliged to create automated filters that prevent Indians from seeing “information or illegal content”.
Finally, privacy on services such as WhatsApp could be weakened, to allow authorities to track down those who have sent unwelcome messages.
The new rules could be passed in time for the national elections, which will take place next spring. The timing has aroused the reactions of local groups in defense of civil liberties, which accuse the Government of Narendra Modi of violating constitutionally protected rights such as privacy and freedom of expression. Furthermore, if the proposal were approved, the ruling party would have an easy game of asking social media for the removal of content from opposition forces.
“The proposed changes show an authoritarian drift,” the director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, Apar Gupta, told the New York Times. “All this is very similar to what China has done, where every post published by citizens is carefully controlled.” Overall, there are now over 50 nations that have enacted laws to gain greater control over what happens online. The global network we have become accustomed to could soon become a thing of the past.