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In India, Your Facebook Status Could Get You Arrested

BY Lisa Goldman | Wednesday, November 21 2012

Often described as the world's largest democracy, India's legislation on free speech would probably surprise the average American. Vague wording of laws that define defamation issues and hate speech, for example, have affected freedom of expression on the Internet — perhaps most notably, on social media platforms. As the New York Times India edition reports, there have been several cases of otherwise law-abiding citizens being arrested and even jailed for their tweets and status updates. Most recently, two women were arrested for Facebook updates.

Sunil Abraham, executive director at the Center for Internet and Society in Bangalore, tells the New York Times that the only way to avoid being arrested is "to close up your social media accounts” and not write anything online.

According to the law, explains the Times,

The key culprits here are revisions to India’s Information Technology Act made in 2008 and 2011, experts say, that leave nearly everything that is transmitted via the Internet open to interpretation by nearly everyone who reads it on the Internet. Things that are considered “annoying” and “offensive” can, under the law, land their sender in jail for up to three years.

At techPresident we have covered both India's burgeoning Internet technology and innovation sector and the government's ham fisted attempts to limit online freedom of expression. With any luck, the sophisticated young innovators will lead the way and show the old curmudgeons the error of their censoring ways.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to The Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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