Globalising opinions and counter currents: The Internet Story

Raghavendra S April 23, 2012

Students, IT employees and Free Software activists raising their voices against Internet censorship in Bangalore. Image Credits: Raghavendra S.


A lot has been spoken about the role that the Internet has played in altering the way today the world functions and the society behaves.

Of all the fabulous and grand changes that the Internet is being claimed to have brought in, one fundamental, a subtle but consequential change it has certainly brought in is that it has converted the virtual connected space into one humongous discussion room!

No issue is local any longer. The sensibilities of people have been globalised. No flaw in society can be allowed to prevail with exceptions of local constraints, or at least the aspirations of people are no longer localised to their regional limitations.

In terms of opinions a true global benchmark has been set via the Internet.

A simple personal example of the writer, to discern this graduation brought out by the Internet could elucidate this claim of globalisation.

In India, racism is not a big peril, although it does show up occasionally, but not as pronounced as in some of the 'developed' western countries. This might be due to another fact that we are plagued with further more vicious discriminations instilled in out society, like casteism. This being the case, I am not all that conscious, rather was not all that conscious of the discriminations on the skin-color lines.

Indian cinema is not an enlightening experience, and the Tamil movies I watch are for a voluntary digression from rationality. So in this trend of pursuing my digression when I watched a Tamil movie Enthiran (starring the 'phenomenal' Rajnikanth), I was apart from being voluntarily defeating my rationale was to end up getting a couple of lessons on my sensibilities.

Most of our movies are male chauvinistic, with little or no importance to other genders. I was already in disgruntle about this, I happened to read a review of the movie on a website based from the USA, where an American journalist had critiqued the movie on certain different lines, which weren't within my dimensions.

In the movie, the protagonist turns to be the antagonist, and there is an immediate change in the makeup of the actor playing both roles and the complexion turns darker! This transition, that the protagonist was fairer in complexion and the antagonist is darker was yelling out racism, and in our conditions and because of my limited cognizance had not been offended by it. Not about being offended, but not had been able to point that as a flaw.

This whole thing might seem silly, but now our sensibilities are growing international, and globalisation of opinions has to be taken into account. This is what the Internet is able to do. Not just about racism, the notion of gender, democracy, freedom, sharing, whistle blowing and many more fundamental ideas of the society are being globalised, and it steadily is collapsing the regional boundaries of opinion and absorbing a wider geography into the realms of a single virtual platform.

Another crucial example is the notion of democracy – in the Internet itself and in countries with Internet playing a role.

We received requests from state and local law enforcement agencies to remove YouTube videos that displayed protests against social leaders or used offensive language in reference to religious leaders. We declined the majority of these requests and only locally restricted videos that appeared to violate local laws prohibiting speech that could incite enmity between communities. In addition, we received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove 236 communities and profiles from Orkut that were critical of a local politician. We did not comply with this request, since the content did not violate our Community Standards or local law.
- Comments on India in the Google Transparency Report

India – the largest democracy today is undoubtedly being a victim of oligarchic regime and a pseudo democracy is what is being projected as the reality. With the instances like the Tahrir Square in Egyptian revolution, what Egypt now is trying to install is a nascent democracy and it has its own problems. Iran which is an Islamic republic, a quasi theocracy is a system where people live amidst constant suppression and submission to their governments. Does this mean that India can be complacent about the system here, when compared to other countries? Or do we strengthen ourselves systemically and set example to others?

As citizens, we needn't any longer live within the limitations of the system here. We could very well discuss and debate issues with no boundaries, whatsoever, and thanks to the Internet.

Julian Assange in his recent writings has expressed that the Internet is no longer only a technical haven, it has acquired the trait of being a political discussion room. He says, “They(people) are being educated, as a result of the internet, about how the world really works in terms of economic flows and political flows and hypocrisy, and they are also being given a power to express their opinions to a potentially very large audience, billions of people.”

Globalisation of opinions is a direct effect of the Internet, and the 21st century will witness many more instances like the WikiLeaks, Tahrir square, Anna Hazare campaign, struggles against censorship all facilitated by the Internet.

The struggle WikiLeaks is fighting is in a way epitome to all the subsequent struggles people have to wage in order to guarantee freedom of expression and hence a democratic voice to the people.

A true people's democracy today is not feasible without sustaining Internet democracy.

India now seems to tread into the path of Internet censorship, after a tangible track record of censorship in arts and literature. The Google transparency report ranks India 5th for shooting out requests for pulling out content which the Government felt was offensive.

The Intermediaries bill and the regressive amendments made to it are standing proofs to manifest the deterioration of the freedom of expression in India. A move such as this would cripple dissemination of information and disable the political discussion room that the Internet presenting itself to be.

Freedom of expression in the Internet if not guaranteed now, will lead us back into time and the pseudo democracy will in effect turn into an abysmal oligarchy.

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