Why India Should Not Ban Orkut

A comment on my previous post generated so many thoughts in response, that I thought it fit to create another post. Text in italics is from the comment on my earlier post.

Orkut is thriving on promotion of obscenity, defamation, anti India sentiments and other illegal activities.
Orkut thrived in India much before it was used for obscenity and defamation. While obscenity and defamation are indeed illegal, Orkut thrives not *because of* these activities, but in spite of it. It is primarily used by majority of Indians (over 8 million) for social networking purposes. The folks who use it for illegal activities are a miniscule minority.

Many users think it is their birth right to use the space for hurting others.
Nothing is wrong in a democracy to express viewpoints that may hurt others. We do have strict laws that prohibit expressions that may hurt private or religious sentiments, and Orkut has assisted Indian authorities in removing such content.

The violators forget that by their action they are disrespecting the privacy and freedom of the victims.
Yes, but that is not Orkut’s fault. It is simply providing the platform for communication and community-formation. Disrespecting freedom of any other person is not against the law as long as there is no cognizable action. With respect to privacy, yes, it is illegal (see my post Indian Women: Beware of Orkut), and Orkut does assist Indian law enforcement (US-speak for police) authorities to take punitive action against those who disrespect the privacy of others.

It is therefore correct to put a reign on Orkut. It is unfotunate that in India we need to take the long winding route of approaching the CERT every time such violations take place.
We do not need to approach CERT every time a violation takes place. Orkut has cooperated excellently with urban police authorities to track down criminals who use it for obsenity or defamation. Wherever Indian law has been violated, Orkut has extended its full support to track down the perpetrators of the crime.

While “banning” may not the ideal solution, it is a necessary threat at least as a measure to remove the incentives available for Orkut to continue promotion of illegal activities.
Orkut has never *promoted* illegal activities. It is simply an enabling platform of communication and social community bonding. Someone can start an SMS campaign maligning a prominent historical figure, and gain thousands, if not millions, of supporters. Then will you ban SMS? If someone starts a newspaper that is highly critical of the Congress, and invites letters and editorials seeking articles and opinions that are anti-Congress, including derogatory statements about our highly revered Prime Minister, will you ban that newspaper?

If your answer is yes, then what does Democracy mean? What is meant by “Freedom of Expression”?

The anti-India communities on Orkut are not destroying thousands of crores of public property in demonstrations, about which nothing is being done. It is a non-violent protest against India. Banning such communication platforms that allow people to express anti-India sentiments and thoughts is a reactive response that smirks of British Colonialism – ban, destroy, and kill everything and anyone anti-British in the hope that the British colonialism will survive. Did it work? If India has not learnt about non-violent protests in spite of its freedom struggle, who can?

The great value being placed on India’s phenomenal growth even if it is nothing compared to China, is that this growth is happening in the world’s most populous Democracy. Our constitution guarantees the fundamental right to speech, and I sometimes feel sad that Indians do not value its worth.

For a practical experience of the Great Firewall Of China, see a CNET’s  reporter’s experience here. It is high time we learnt to appreciate the meaning of freedom.