India expanding censorship regime, creating uneven playing field: study
According to a new report released by Freedom House, a non-profit organization based in Washington, global Internet freedom has fallen for the 13th consecutive year. The internet environment for human rights has deteriorated in 29 nations, with only 20 showing positive advances. The paper, titled “Freedom on the Net 2023: The Repressive Power of Artificial Intelligence,” has raised a warning flag about governments’ expanding use of artificial intelligence for censorship and disinformation propagation.
What is Freedom House and what does the study portray?
- Freedom House is a non-profit that promotes democracy, political freedom, and human rights. Freedom House was founded in 1941 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
- Among the activities of Freedom House are:
- Identifying Freedom Threats
- Increasing support for individuals and organizations that fight for democracy
- advancing democracy
- Monitoring the level of political and economic freedom in various places across the world
- Supporting democratic transformation
What did the recent study on Internet Freedom show?
- Global Internet Freedom Decline: Internet freedom has declined in 29 countries, while only 20 have improved. This is a concerning trend for proponents of online human rights and digital liberties.
- The Role of AI in Repression: The research emphasizes governments’ increasing use of artificial intelligence for censorship and the propagation of disinformation. AI is being utilized as a weapon for digital repression in several countries, which is a troubling trend.
- Iran’s Digital Repression: To suppress anti-government rallies, authorities shut down Internet services, blocked popular social media sites like WhatsApp and Instagram, and increased surveillance.
- China’s Ongoing Repression: For the ninth consecutive year, China is recognized as the worst environment for Internet freedom. Its draconian web censorship and surveillance policies have drawn widespread criticism.
- Legal Repercussions for Online Expression: This year, a record number of 55 countries have witnessed legal ramifications for persons who express themselves online. This includes the imposition of multi-year prison sentences for online activities in 31 nations, illustrating the terrible penalties that people suffer for expressing themselves online.
- Elections as a Trigger: According to the research, elections are frequently used as a trigger for digital repression. Many incumbent governments utilize censorship and other information controls to swing elections in their favour, which has a severe impact on Internet freedom.
- India’s Digital Repression: The report focuses on India’s usage of AI-powered digital repression. According to the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code), social media sites must apply AI-based moderation techniques for various sorts of content. This has generated concerns about censorship and its impact on democracy, particularly as the 2024 general elections approach.
- censoring Methods in India: India has been reported to use a variety of censoring methods, including Internet connectivity limits, social networking platform blocks, website blocks, and forced content removal. Other techniques include censoring websites with political, social, or religious content and using pro-government commentators to control online discourse.
- India’s Freedom Score: India achieved a score of 50 out of 100 on the digital freedom scale. This indicates significant room for improvement. In contrast, Iceland has the highest freedom score at 94.
The study emphasizes the necessity of defending Internet freedom and human rights online, especially in light of rising digital repression and governments’ use of AI for censorship and disinformation campaigns. It also emphasizes the importance of ongoing lobbying and attempts to protect digital liberties around the world.