INTERNET AND FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION FACE HURDLES IN DICTATORIAL TERRITORIES

By Promod Puri

World Wide Web originally meant creating a free connected web of interlinked or hyperlinked online sites worldwide.

That was the idea of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who drove the concept of online connectivity in 1989.

Shared information is created, consumed, commented, spread and recreated while keeping its growth and spread with speed. That is the environment we breathe in the community of social media.

It is a “two-way, conversational environment in which information passes horizontally from one person to another along with social networks, rather than being delivered vertically from an impersonal central source,” according to Tom Standage, a deputy editor of The Economist.

This horizontal connectivity runs worldwide from poles to poles.

However, with the mammoth growth of online sites over the years, networking is strained with criticism and censure.

What is to be connected or disconnected on the net is lately a hot topic. Only tech firms like Facebook or Google were usually responsible for governing that exclusive control.

Besides aiming to run as profitable businesses, which sure they have touched the sky, a critical role expected from them was social responsibility in managing the stream of content on the internet.

Companies ensure harmful content is removed quickly and taking steps it does not appear in the first place. This self-governance is there but not up to the ethical mark.

These tech giants failed in that management on the argument that information and knowledge within WWW should flow freely without any imposed restraints.

This failure results in a mass of information where the online outlets have become vehicles of fake news and corrupted views. The tap keeps running no matter what source the water is coming from and how pure or polluted it is.

The tech firms get rebuke for not securing their gates with social obligation about the nature of information, knowledge and opinion entering the internet. In this scenario, governments worldwide are introducing their regulatory laws.

Joining the regulatory lineup are many dictatorial regimes too. Their plan also involves suppressing what is not palatable to them and using social media as propaganda machinery.

Tightening of rules as to how the tech companies, from Google to Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp, handle the flow of news and views, messages and opinions, knowledge, and information is recurrent global news.

While this exercise goes on, many autocratic and pseud democratic administrations often cut off the internet connections for days, weeks and even months. As a weapon of mass disruption, the internet’s dysconnectivity in many of the world’s hotspots curbs communications and free flow of information, all in the name of security and safety of their respective regimes.

Cyber policing is a new force deployed at the network front.

China has hundreds of thousands of cyber-police who monitor social media platforms, and screen messages deemed politically sensitive.

And the largest democracy in the world, India, has recently made drastic changes to social media platforms, making sure Judiciary works in line with the executive powers.

With a whistle and stop monitoring, the free-connected World Wide Web concept encounters more challenges and even deadends of information stream, especially when the web enters the dictatorial territories.

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