In which I explore the reasons for paranoia against totalitarianism and restriction of freedom.
India has been subjected to online censorship, and there have been muses from both side of the fence. From those that believe the government has a legitimate and well intentioned right to do so to those and those (right here) who do not.
But the question is not whether Site A should be blocked and Site B should not. That is what most people are focussing on, but it is not the question one should ask.
What is the basic difference between an autocracy and a democracy? A democracy exchanges trust of one for the distrust of many. The basic precept of democracy is that absolute power corrupts absolutely - and what is absolute power if not the ability to control thoughts.
Gaurav Bhatnagar for instance has a well intentioned post
There was credible information that certain blogs were being used to pass on sensitive information amongst terrorists.
Right. Let us examine that again. There is a difference between propaganda and communication - and the government and the media has deliberately chosen to ignore that difference. Take for instance zfone (end to end VOIP encryption), ScatterChat (end to end chat encryption), Tor (completely private network). Not to mention the multitude of anonymizers. This makes it very hard to believe that terrorists could be using ”he’s sleeping with the fishes” kind of a code on their blogs. Of course we need to trust the government when they say so right?
The problem with the whole fiasco is not that the government asked for some sites to be blocked - but that it would’nt reveal what sites to block. Now if one were to actually look at the list of sites one would see that there are some sites which are blocked for no reason at all: but it is entirely possible some bureaucrat did not do his/her homework.
The problem with this approach is the Orwellian tendency to say ”we know best. you better listen for your own good”. Which means that the sites were not communication, but rather propaganda. Which is quite understandable - sites promoting hate crime, etc. are despicable. But as we see in this particular case, the sites had little to do with what the government claimed. It was entirely blatant and baseless. And the refusal to actually tell us about it is what smacks of totalitarianism. If that is not Big Brother, then tell me what is.
The advantage of the internet is that its the only medium that is two way, self regulated. Which means any propaganda can be rebutted. And more importantly, if you as a parent, sibling, friend know what is the content of the site that is so malicious, you can take proactive steps to prevent it - for blocking it technologically is next to impossible.
Delhi Police has a recent notification for all cybercafe owners to maintain records of the people sending emails - tell me if the government is’nt going to use to intimidate those who question its policies, tell me that the government wont try to curb criticism, and I will give you a Right To Information and Accountability.
The question, is not what was blocked. It was and always has been why. And if anyone tells you that you dont need to know, then they are lying.
Democracies are based on distrust - and rightly so. Only the paranoid survive.