India’s internet industry has developed rapidly, with the use of social media getting more popular. In 2015, the number of Internet users in India reached 150 million. Of those, the number of social media users exceeded 130 million, with annual growth rate increasing to 26%. Internet users in India spend more than 2 hours per day on social media websites. Facebook and Twitter have become important platforms of communication for mainstream Indian society. Their effect on the Indian society is also increasing. Facing the increasingly important role played by social media, Indian government wants to give importance to public opinion management, and gradually wants to develop a tool for localization with Indian characteristics.
Indian Government’s “Internet restraint” policy is full of features, different management methods exist between “Internet freedom” and “Internet sovereignty”, with the option of choosing each constantly.
Indian government has more restraint on social media to combat and control inappropriate content. Indian Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Prasad said: “using social media in the wrong way, especially spreading extreme rhetoric will threaten social stability. Ministry of Communications and Information Technology will cooperate with Home Ministry to take necessary action”. In Jan. 2016, a person from Indian state of Kerala published an insulting and provocative speech on Facebook regarding the Pathankot terrorist attacks. This person was arrested on charge of ‘sedition’. According to a report issued by Facebook, the Indian Government, in the first half of 2015, made more than 15000 content restriction requests to Facebook; it was three times than the requests made in the second half of 2014. The Indian Government ranks number one in requesting content restrictions.
In 2008, international terrorists planned the Mumbai attacks using the internet. It reinforced the idea of managing public opinion on the internet. That same year the Government revised the “Information Technology law” and in recent years it has become the most important foundation of social media management by the Government. According to the provisions of this law, anyone found sending aggressive information or sending information to continuously trouble people, make them uncomfortable, threaten, interfere, insult, injure and criminal intimidation etc., can be imprisonment and fined. Indian government has a lot of leeway in interpretation and enforcement of the law. They can delete network information or close network and social media accounts and even arrest the disseminators.
In 2014, 42 people were arrested by the police for breaking the law. In March 2015, the documentary “India’s daughter”, based on the Delhi rape case spread quickly online. It affected India’s image adversely. Social media platforms and video sites blocked this documentary at the Indian Government’s request, 844 social media pages and related content have been banned in India since November 2015,.
In practice, India explores centralized management through a set of efficient and pragmatic management means.
First, as early as 2004, the Indian government established a Computer Emergency Response Team under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. The “Information Technology law” was amended in 2008, which further clarified the Emergency Response Team’s rights and responsibilities. So this Team became a unified department to deal with network attacks, network public opinion management. The “removal notice” issued by the government and court should be transferred from this Team to the related social media company or website as well as supervise its execution.
Secondly, establishing cooperation with social media and internet companies. India Internet and Social Research Center said that the Indian government made an agreement with Twitter according to which the company will carry out “removal notices” issued by the Indian courts. India also actively uses government request channels on Facebook, and requests content restriction according to industry provisions.
Thirdly, insisting on processing of cases individually. According to the Indian news and New Media Institute,India adheres to processing cases of deletion and bans on speech, even arrests, individually but does not ban a large area, in order to ensure freedom of speech, . At the same time, carry out restrictions, viz. deletions and bans, geographically, so that the impact is limited to the domestic IP address only. In 2012, the Andhra Pradesh MP, Mr Owaisi, was arrested for a speech inciting religious conflict. The Delhi court subsequently sent a “clear notification” to Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies and had the related videos deleted.