India has been ranked as the worst of the worst offenders when it come to internet censorship, according to a report released today by the advocacy group Open Society Foundations.
India ranks at the top of the list of countries where internet access is severely restricted, according the report released by Open Society, which is part of the Global Initiative to Counter Violent Extremism (GICV).
The organisation said India ranks ahead of China, Pakistan and the Philippines in terms of its restrictions.
“India is one of the largest and most advanced nations in terms on how it has restricted its Internet access, with restrictions in all sectors, including the public sphere,” said Paul Elam, executive director of Open Society.
“These restrictions disproportionately impact marginalized communities, children, women, and communities of color, and are deeply troubling.”
The GICV said the report was compiled by a team of international experts who studied the countries restrictions on the Internet and social media platforms, as well as the way that government and private companies use and abuse the information.
The report concluded that India is “one of the few countries in the world where it is impossible to freely express political, religious, and artistic views, while others, including Indonesia, have the freedom to do so”.
Open Society found that while India is ranked among the countries with the worst levels of internet censorship in the region, it also ranks as one of only six countries that still allow online expression in the public square.
“Internet censorship in India has become a significant obstacle to the right of speech and expression,” Elam said.
“As we have seen in China, restrictions on speech and free expression have a chilling effect on the free expression of dissent, and the ability of people to organize and participate in public life.”
The report also found that the internet was being increasingly used to spread extremist content, which led to the rise of online radical groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The report found that in 2015, there were over 11 million internet users in India.
The report noted that this was a record high and “could be a tipping point” for a broader social and political shift.
“The proliferation of extremist content online has created a huge opportunity for terrorist groups to exploit the social tensions created by the internet and its growing use by individuals and communities to spread their messages and recruit,” Eham said.
The Gicv said the number of extremist online accounts rose by 300 percent between 2013 and 2015.
It also said there were more than 20 million people online in India as of February this year, up from around 5 million as of the previous year.
“This has been a very significant year for extremist online activities, which are now the dominant mode of radicalization,” Eman said.
Elam said the rise in extremist content was an indicator of how far India has fallen behind in addressing the issue of online extremism.
“It is a reminder that extremism is a global problem, and is not confined to India,” he said.
“There is a need for India to move to a new paradigm in its online and offline security, and ensure that all citizens, including online users, are free to engage in free expression online without worrying about being targeted by the state.”
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