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Technology can be a great rescuer, but can it sometimes be a public menace?

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harmful, technology, mobile, smartphones, laptops, spywares, virus

Despite the government’s persistence may not be as clear-cut as a case of state domination and over-reach. It turns out that the Indian government might be right to fear that technology, for all the very real benefits it’s brought India, could also be helping to magnify ancient communal tensions in a way that costs lives and, perhaps even worse, might destabilize the delicate social balance within the world’s second-largest country. Technology didn’t cause any of this, of course. But social media and text messaging, both of which are becoming increasingly common in the reaches of India’s enormous lower and middle classes, accelerated the flow of rumours and of inflammatory images.

The government, unable to counter the destabilizing rumours, shut down some of the means of their dispersal. Whether or not the Indian government’s censorship does anything to calm this crisis, their apparent desperation is understandable. Still, India’s willingness to censor the web is part of the government’s longer-running effort to standardize the Internet, to which Western governments and web freedom advocates have persistently objected. Some of India’s sweeping restrictions compel web companies like Google and Facebook to self-police and then self-censor, any content that could be perceived as profane or offensive to ethnic groups.

In the recent past #censorship was a big debate on social networks; these days many accounts are deactivated or blocked by the social network authorities. In general, censorship in India, which involves the suppression of speech or other public communication, raises issues of freedom of speech, which is protected by the Indian constitution. A classic example of censorship in India is the Central Board of Film Certification or Censor Board, which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The Board regularly orders directors to remove anything it deems offensive or subjects considered to be politically subversive.

The censorship of films is governed by the Cinematograph Act, 1952. It assigns certification as Universal, Adults, and Parental Guidance to films in India before the public exhibition. The Indian government has earlier blocked around 250 websites, ordered Google and Facebook to pull content, threatened legal action against Twitter if it doesn’t delete certain accounts, and has arrested several people for sending provocative text messages, all in the name of the public safety.

Web freedom activists distinguish this as little more than an excuse for online authoritarianism, and they’re probably often correct. We cannot isolate ourselves from this but can make a safe distance to access genuine information. A parallel system needs to strict its security norms so that any state against information and data is not within the reach of the common citizen of the country.

Being a person from Cyber Security, I know how much it is for us to fool inexperienced people on the internet and then use those resources to do something illegal and improper. There should be a body that will not only work towards the security of cybercrime in government and Militant organizations but also work towards enforcement of awareness of cybercrime. It is always better to take precautions.

Rapidly increasing two-edged sword, social media has created a vibrant online community and widened public discourse, allowing a platform for activists with a thousand causes. On the flip side, it has also become a vehicle of skewered misinformation. The perspective of an individual using a social networking site in an enigmatic manner is much more in a social networking site than in social media. There is no procedure for registration and ownership. And so, there is no way to pin down the culprits.

Censorship has become a weapon in the hands of the State to make people agree with its ideology.  Now is the time to look into the role that can be played by healthy criticism, analysis, and cinema literacy, posts, cartoons, blogs or tweets rather than relying on controllers that act as moral police, stopping the dissent. Information technology seems to be the latest weapon of waging proxy wars.

Countries have borders and restrictions to each other’s jurisdiction, but cyberspace has no boundaries. The recent NE exodus was a disastrous moment for Indian Citizens and the Government. With 2-3 online users and a couple of hours of editing work, various groups were able to trigger the most massive internal exodus of People in India and nationwide protests. Most of the public who does this assumes that they do this with a false sense of secrecy.

While Cyber War between India and Pakistan is not new, it was limited to hacking each other’s websites. Interestingly, this time it may not have been carried out by so-called hackers. Since it was easier to spread hatred than to block websites, the whole episode would have been carried out by 4-5 Social Media addicts. The law is there to prevent this, but enforcement is far from adequate. There are many such instances and evidence that one country rages its anger or one particular religion condemns another religion hurting its sentiments online.

The fact that there is proof of some Pakistani organizations uploading obnoxious and provocative stuff on the Internet, leading to the exodus of people of the northeast from Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and other cities, shows that some elements from across the border want to knock off the balance of our country. To prevent their designs we, people, should defy such provocations. In the wake of the recent Assam riots, the rest of the country should have stood together to condemn all forms of violence.

But we did not do so. It was our prejudice and lack of unity that contributed to the success of the mischief-mongers. To control the situation and stabilize the country, the Government opted for censorship. There is no point in blaming the government. At least the educated should take pains to verify the truth. Pointing a finger at Pakistan will not solve the problem. The crisis has brought social media to the forefront, relegating print and electronic media to the background. Perhaps it is one more revolution in the history of mankind. It is clear that people today believe in non-stop, one-to-one communication/conversation, rather than the mass media.

Anyways, censorship might help control the situation but this will remain as superficial of the problems that the country is facing. Making the people aware of the “cyber threat” takes an hour but censorship can’t be the exact way out. India really requires proper systems to be adopted in order to be safe or else this might really create big disasters in the future. In the information age, we cannot lock our cyberspace because it is among one of the main tools for the sustainable development of the state. But curbing cyber-attack in any form either cyberwar or putting illegitimate material on the web has really become necessary around the globe. Though we are having strict policies, we are still not guarding our information web properly and which causes recent NE exodus type events.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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