Freedom Of Speech On The Internet

September 09, 2007
Aditi Nadkarni

The Internet has brought the world a whole new form of media. Today I feel that my thoughts, opinions and reviews have a wider outreach. There was a time when I had no idea what the common people in Britain thought of Bollywood or how much Chinese people enjoyed Raj Kapoor films. I didn't know that Shah Rukh Khan had a fan base in Amsterdam and that some Americans had enjoyed Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake as much as I did. Desicritics itself has put views from the Indian/South Asian community under the scrutiny of the international eye. Such Indian e-magazines and newspapers provide a fresh, contemporary take on politics, media and culture. The NRI perspective, an interesting hybrid on all things Desi is also showcased.

In short, news and views travel faster and the globe is better connected. So much so that the world-wide web is a world in itself, a virtual world that at times mirrors the aspects the real world such as a liberal democracy tainted by intolerance and crime.

The widespread exposure comes with a price. One's thoughts and opinions are constantly judged by a larger group of people who not only may disagree with you but also have an unacceptable or offensive way of voicing their disapproval. While journalists, reviewers and critics are supposed to take such criticism with a good deal of objectivity, the general public also should consider it worthwhile to be respectful in their analysis or rebuttals. Freedom of speech is a privilege, not a liberty that one should take for granted and abuse.

Hate speech online is considered harmless by some who haven't been at the receiving end. What harm could a few hateful words of slander cause, they wonder. They are just words. Well, they would've been "just words" had they not be posted on public forums. Having certain ideas on a platform such as newspapers or the internet is a whole different issue than expressing them at the family dinner or at a bar with one's friends. The platform does matter. Putting up your views on such a broad media panel where it will be read by a general population irrespective of age, advertises and promotes the line of thinking being expressed.

Newspapers and tabloids are held accountable if they promote racism, sexism or baseless defamation. Authors are answerable to both society and media if their comments and views are upsetting towards communities, genders or minorities in general. To ask for an unquestioned freedom of speech on an internet forum where comments and opinions can be posted anonymously is like demanding no censorship, no restraint and no supervision over a form of media that is a lot more influential than most people realize.

If a film review can convince you to watch a particular movie, sexist, fascist, racist and hateful commentary can also be influential depending on who is reading the material. There is always a section of society that looks for justification for their actions and behavior. The sexists want vindication and so do the racists. There are white supremacists who find delight in the sense of belonging that a clan brings them. There are people who surf over the internet and find websites that post disturbing pictures of dead fetuses. Viewing these pictures is upsetting, disturbing and most of all, persuasive. A vulnerable person will want to believe that all abortions are wrong and can be persuaded to act on his disapproving impulse. People have bombed abortion clinics killing doctors and nurses because they were fed pro-life theories by websites. Scientific labs have been attacked and burned down because a group of people saw a few essays about animal research and pictures of chained monkeys on the internet. Years worth of work leading to a cure for a disease goes down the drain. People who use animals for research don't do so for fun or to torture the animal. They do it so that humans can depend on science for answers. Animals shelters put down a particularly dangerous dog so he won't maul a small, defenseless child.

One always finds people who will justify their own violent protest against something that they find disturbing because unfortunately, the internet is like a mirror, a slideshow of our own existing prejudices. One can pull up information that supports pet theories. One can scour for research that proves one side but neglects the other facet of the story. Internet sites and literature seldom provide the other take. This bias can be very compelling. The bandwagon mentality causes people to rationalize their own behavior based on ideas available on the internet. Psychological and economic research has identified "herd behavior" among humans that affects religious riots, violence, political trends, stock market decisions and even every day choices among the general population. Conformism has a significant effect on human behavior.

I had never thought about this before but a month or so ago, I received a startling email from a woman who had read one of my comments on DC. She asked me if she should continue to try and save her abusive marriage instead of applying the Domestic Violence Act. "You said that the laws are too stringent. And if you as a woman feel they are too strict, maybe I should work my marriage out instead of going to the police", she said in her mail. She described a disturbing history of abuse in the marriage and I was astonished by the correlation she had made between my criticism of the stringency of the law and her own relationship which was, from what she detailed, a very unhealthy and unsafe situation to be in. I immediately responded and let her know that I did not in any way justify domestic violence. I felt guilty that my words had actually been misconstrued. I vowed to be more careful. It opened my eyes to the possibility that a person reading my words can be influenced based on their own frame of mind. I can be misunderstood and hence I should be more responsible with how I use them on such a broad platform. But I notice that few people are conscientious enough to acknowledge this sensibility.

Words can brain wash. They do have the ability to feed hatred, insecurities and even fear. If they can inspire somebody to act then they also have the power to justify someone's violence. They can speak in defense of crime, thus promoting criminal activity. They can traget impressionable teens looking for affirmation.The internet is indiscriminate. One never knows who is reading what. Young men and women, children, people who have access to the internet but don't quite have the sense to think for themselves are all exposed to views published on the internet. In such a situation, online forums do require statutes or limits governing the exchanges that take place on that forum.

I recently came upon a very effective and articulate article titled "Freedom of speech (with limits)" on BBC by Julian Baggini that I thought best describes why the internet requires censorship. Here is an excerpt:

"This is why we rightly limit the freedom of people to utter hate speech. Racist words can make people live in fear. Homophobic rantings can legitimise discrimination. Sexist words can buttress sexist practice. It is not "political correctness" to stop people using words to harm others, it is simply fairness and justice."

The author of this article discusses both perspectives: the right for freedom of speech and the responsibility that is required of people who choose to place their ideas on a public forum. My favorite aspect was the little picture illustration accompanying the article. It shows liberty and decency boxing it out. Quite appropriate, I thought.

The bottomline is that if a person lets go of their own decency and does not use self-restraint while exchanging ideas on a public forum, then they are in fact the ones responsible for the censorship. No one says that contradictory ideas are unacceptable. Everybody has the right to their own opinion. But a personal attack only indicates a weak cause or loss of logical articulation. It is a matter of shame that adults would require such supervision during something as necessary as a discussion. An exchange of ideas should only be fed with intellect, views and perspective, not thwarted and choked with the damning havoc of ad hominem.

Very few people are aware that in January of 2006, the United States brought into effect a law barring people from posting or e-mailing of messages intended to annoy people without having included their true identity. A portion of the law is as follows:

"Whoever utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications//shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

Crank calling is an offense, stalking is an offense and now bullying and threatening on the internet is a cybercrime. Bullies are not just restricted to snatching your lunch packs in school now. They are adults on the internet who are unable to find a more age-worthy form of venting their frustrations and disagreements. They are adult bullies who want to lay their claims on freedom of speech. There are several hate groups on the internet that gain importance through such cultism. Here is a Wikipedia excerpt about "Hate groups":

"Hate groups usually assert that the targets of their attacks are harmful to society, malicious, less fit to be members of society, or are operating some hidden cabal. The evidence hate groups present for these assertions is usually poorly corroborated, and is often based explicitly on the hate group's negative beliefs about the social groups to which the target is or is imagined to belong (e.g. groups based on race, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.)."

Another interesting Wikipedia excerpt about vocalization of hatred on the internet, that might explain the behavior of some of the trolls, pulls attention to and may explain why verbal assaults should be regarded as a form of violence:

"By verbally debasing the object of their hate, haters enhance their self-image, as well as their group status. Researchers have found that the more often a person thinks about aggression, the greater the chance for aggressive behavior to occur. Thus, after constant verbal denigration, haters progress to the next stage"

(The other stages go on to describe culmination of such herd hatred psychopathology into actual acts of physical violence).

It is only understandable then that editors and publishers of public forums choose to protect their authors and other readers from the immaturity, obscenity and personal attacks of such offenders. Bullies and hecklers never want any laws or rules that will help suppress their offensive behavior. Whoever said that thugs want patrol! They don't and will always vehemently use the "freedom of speech" dictum to forward their own agendas while insolently violating other people's right to a healthy discussion. Truth to be told, their offensive comments are far from being a true representation of "freedom of speech. They are only an illustration of how this privilege is abused on the internet under the convenient garb of anonymity and perceived legal immunity.

To expect an uncensored voice on a public forum of media is like eating one's cake and having it too. Demands for uncensored freedom of speech are loud and coherent only until the offense is being hurled right at you. Then the need for censorship immediately becomes very obvious and urgent.

Aditi Nadkarni is a cancer researcher, a film reviewer and a poet; her many occupations are an odd yet fun miscellany of creative pursuits. Visit her blog for more of her articles and artistic as well as photographic exploits.
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September 9, 2007
03:54 PM


well articulated!

about the only thing free in life is the smile you (might) get if you give up a seat in a crowded bus/train!

freedom comes with responsibility

if the responsibility is not exercised than the freedom can be exorcised

specifically with respect to anonymous mediums such as this....it is all too easy to become a tiger when in real life one is a cowering whiner


September 9, 2007
07:36 PM

The argument against censorship is that more people realize the good sense in being civilized as completely free speech matures....

Would you ban drinking because some people get drunk? Would you make being drunk a crime?

Aditi Nadkarni
September 9, 2007
08:01 PM

Temporal: Thanks! You said it "Freedom comes with responsibility"

Kartikeya: No I definitely wouldn't ban drinking but I would expect the law to protect me against drunken driving, drunken assaults or drunk rapists (all manifestations of not being able to drink responsibly). I hope that explains what I mean. I am suprised that after reading my entire article you inferred that I was moving to put a ban on freedom of speech. Having certain rules is good when not everybody has the "good sense" that you are assuming they will eventually develop as free speech matures.

Even in an official debate where there is freedom of speech, there are rules. No personal attacks, no verbal assaults, only rational, logical exchange. These are all valid and reasonable statutes that maintain the decorum of a discussion. they are fair and apply to everyone.

Thank you for your comments.

September 9, 2007
10:39 PM

Having rules, regulations, norms, etiquette..... is different from having censorship. The former are persuasive means, built on the premise of agreement - a consensus that a particular rule is a good one to follow and everyone agrees to follow it. The latter is coercive and is therefore not based on consensus but is by definition imposed ad hoc on individuals.

If someone is abusive, then it is that person who gets tagged as being abusive - everybody notices it and that person gets blackballed in most instances. That is what persuades most people to not be abusive. If they lose it or irrespective or whether or not they lose it, if they descend into indecency and aggressive abusive behaviour, then they are culpable. But that doesn't mean that everyone should be under the scanner by default.

In a nutshell - would i agree to a certain set of rules and norms before i formulate an opinion, provided those norms were uniformly applied? Yes. But would i agree to a system where someone reads what i write and judges whether it is appropriate or not and only then lets it be published? No.

The analogy you offered is flawed in my view, because the crime there is rape or assault or irresponsible driving ..... the crime is not drinking.

So should there be laws against abuse/defamation/stalking etc etc? Definitely. Should those laws involve censorship? No.

Whatever i have said is only within the context of online freedom of speech.

Aditi Nadkarni
September 9, 2007
10:57 PM


The examples I cited: drunk driving, assault etc are all examples of irresponsible drinking. Online abuse is a classic example of the irresponsible application of the right to free speech. Parallels I believe. If you think my analogy was flawed, forgive me but I was working with the flawed analogy you provided to begin with...freedom of speech versus drinking.

How are laws against abuse/ defamation/ stalking any different from censorship? If a public forum censored/ edited racist/ sexist/ abusive attacks then they would essentially be limiting abuse/ defamation and stalking right?

You said: "But would i agree to a system where someone reads what i write and judges whether it is appropriate or not and only then lets it be published?"

I don't believe I have recommended or spoken in favor of such a system either. You seem to have misunderstood the context in which I have used the term "censorship". I have used the term "censorship" in the context of the editors' right to delete inflammatory comments.

September 9, 2007
11:32 PM

Yes.... delete them after they are made. That is not censorship. Censorship would be to filter them out before they are published.

I probably misunderstood your usage of the term...

Aditi Nadkarni
September 10, 2007
12:13 AM

#6 Kartikeya: This may likely be because the popular definition of censorship is associated with suppression of material. But internet censorship also includes "control" which means editing of offensive language, abuses, threats or infammatory comments by publishers of the website.

An excerpt from Wikipedia about Internet Censorship by online forums states:

"Forums and chatrooms frequently have moderators, who will edit or remove material against the rules of that community. The scope of these rules varies from community to community..."

So editing is considered a form of censorship although not preemptive.

Thanks for the comments.

September 10, 2007
12:21 AM

"edit or remove" - implies that they must first exist and be shown to be objectionable....

moderation is not censorship

premptive censorship is indefensible on a free open forum...

September 10, 2007
12:40 AM

Kartikeya: A quick check on the Thesaurus will reveal that the words "censor" and "edit" are synonyms :) In fact now that you mention the term "moderate" you will find that it means "to control"....this is also one of the synonyms for "censor". Censor is a broad term and it is easy enough to go with the popular definition. But that doesn't mean it cannot be used in vcaried contexts right?

As far as this article goes, I think the point Aditi is making is far bigger than what you are arguing over. She is very clearly referring to comments which the editor cannot censor without it first existing.

Also to be honest preemptive censoring of obvious verbal abuse, racial slurs and curse words is not such a bad idea. They shouldn't have any place in a discussion should they?

Aditi: A very timely post. I was growing tired of all the name calling and verbal assaults by people who were demanding freedom of speech.

September 10, 2007
12:48 AM

Thank you for your words.You have relieved my heart .
I take part in a forum. When I receive ugly commentaries, do not answer them. Anyhow, they damage. It is necessary to learn. It is something new.
But when I read you, I understoodt a bit more.. Thank you again(afresh)..

September 10, 2007
12:49 AM

I take your point about edit/censor.

Preemptive censoring is a very bad idea, for two reasons:

1. The offending commenter gets away too easily if his stupidity is not revealed to the world.
2. There is no guarantee that preemptive censorship will be limited to abusive comments.

Besides, people who engage in name calling and abuse rarely demand freedom of speech.

I am all for moderation and i take Aditi's point about abuse and harassment online, but pre-emptive censorship as a principle is playing into the hands of the small minority which might engage in such rubbish....

September 10, 2007
01:10 AM

Kartikeya: I agree with both of your points. But when you say this "....people who engage in name calling and abuse rarely demand freedom of speech" I think most DC authors/ readers and Aditi herself will probably suppress a smile. I am not sure if you are new to this forum but take some time to go through the comments for the articles by Aditi and other authors who write on controvertial topics. Not only do some commentators verbally abuse these authors with outrageous obscenities and curse words but when these are edited they turn around and accuse the editors of barring their freedom of speech!!! :)

This has been going on for the past few months and somebody needed to touch on this topic. I am glad it was finally done. I just hope that the elements for whom this article is meant will read it and alter their nettiquette a bit.

September 10, 2007
01:21 AM

Aditi - excellent post as always! I think a lot of the problems one faces on the internet re: speech comes from people who
A) Don't understand the medium
B) Don't think it through
C) Don't care

My favorite example of (A) is writer Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing)who once went famously postal on an internet forum and when the moderators stepped in to delete his posts (which btw, were directed against one of his own writers from the West Wing) he called them fascists or some such for refusing to allow him to spout what he wished to spout. Regulars at the forum had a good laugh at the thought of an unmoderated forum and then went on their merry way. Does this remind you of anybody? :)

(B) is the wee beastie who thinks anything goes on the interwebs. In real life this person probably wouldn't say boo to a goose but put them in front of a keyboard and the inner asshole breaks free. It's like the net is Vegas and what happens here doesnt count. And when others don;t feel inclined to shut up and take it, they feel really upset and are sure their rights are being violated somewhere somehow.

(C) of course are the trolls. usually they're teenagers with nothing better to do, sometimes grown ass men find themselves with nothing better to do either and voila! a new nuisance is spawned.

I'm sure there are other categories out there but I wonder why it never occurs to some people that making a nuisance of themselves or searching out people just so they can disrespect them isn't actually doing them any favors? It just shows how badly brought up and/or stupid they really are.

And these days, such behavior is criminal. Like prosecutable. In India as well as elsewhere.

September 10, 2007
01:43 AM

aditi... so glad you wrote about this, and so eloquently. I get so damned sick and tired of these morons who come on thinking they can bully, intimidate, etc people into shutting up so only their own views can be heard. sadly, it comes from a place of impotence on the part of the bully in their daily life. as you have mentioned, usually people who act so immaturely are often repressed in their "real" life and use the anonymity of online forums to try to assert themselves. unfortunately all of their anger gets shifted and displaced and aimed at some unsuspecting author.

I usually try to ignore, but you can see how well that works sometimes. anyway, we should all live by the rule of not trying to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person. :)

September 10, 2007
07:36 AM

Thanks Aditi for bringing this out...

But only if you could suggest a way to identify who the hate group is.

The last time I heard Tali ek haath se nahin bajti

...And to the best of my knowledge some of the people who have put in the effort to comment above have used this thread as a refuge to hide themselves from being identified as memebers of the much debated hate group.

A. S. Mathew
September 10, 2007
07:58 AM

Ms. Nadkarni, you are making a prophetic obervation. If something is written in a local
paper, the readership is very limited, but when
something is written in the internet, only God knows how far and wide the message has gone.

Internet is a great tool for doing good, and it can be used as a terrible weapon for spreading hatred and misleading the reader. Each website
must have certain supervision to screen the
presentation of topics. As you mentioned in your article, what we read can brainwash us, to
some it is a long process but for some people that can be an instant process. Keep up the good work.

Man Singh
September 10, 2007
11:57 AM

Taslima nasrene can answer better on freedom of speech.

Propgands still reins. Rich and powerful canget their things published in more profesisonal and attractive way. There is none to hear for the poor. of course their poverty brings fruits to rich n influencial. Motehr Teresa is living example of how selling out poverty of calcutta in world market can bring Noble prize and sainthood even without building a single hospital for the poor?

September 10, 2007
12:33 PM

@ Mansingh

and u r trying to say????

September 10, 2007
03:44 PM

I get very nervous when freedom of speech issues are talked about. Aditi, a very thought-provoking and well-written article. However, despite the fact that I would not ever be abusive on any forum and would boycott or rage against someone who would be, I find myself disagreeing with the curtailment of freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech is only tested when what is said is offensive to you. I am pretty sure, for instance, that I would agree with your views on most things but what about those for whom feminism/abortion/male-female equality/blasphemy, etc. etc. are the things that should be curtailed? What about a society where anyone espousing those issues should be shut up?

The only way to allow myself to talk about the hegemony and evil of religion (blasphemy punishable by death in some parts), the right to choose, etc. etc....is to actually not curtail the right to speak for those whose views are diametrically opposed to mine.

I remember Salman Rushdie wrote a letter to urge rescinding the British ban on the Pakistani film "Allah Guirrilley." The film was made in response to The Satanic Verses, and showed Rushdie as an evil island-dweller who drinks whiskey and is later vanquished by Allah's wrath and a Pakistani policeman. Quite hilarious.

Despite his own fatwah-related ordeal Rushdie believed in freedom of speech as a universal right.

Already, freedom of speech does not cover any speech that makes actual physical threats and exhorts others to commit violence--- actual violence on anyone. Saying that I hate all black people or Arabs or lesbians and they should get the plague is hateful....but protected. Targeting an actual black/Arab/lesbian and threaten them with physicl violence is clearly a criminal act.

People are also protected by libel and slander laws if what is said or written aboutn them is fabricated and unproveable.

That being said, yes people's feelings can be hurt and they might make bad decisions based on information they find online. But I do not beleive in policing the web.

And, of course, moderated sites can and should put their rules up front and deal with violators as they want.

But legislating against free speech on the Internet is a touchy subject. Tomorrow, when and if the tables are turned, issues and topics that we hold important might be the ones that suddenly become offensive and harmful...and censored.

People need to be vigilant and careful and direct their own and their loved ones Internet activity...but limiting free speech is not the answer. At least in my opinion.

Aditi Nadkarni
September 10, 2007
03:51 PM

Jay: glad you found this post timely. I know you've been bothered by the use of ad hominem on some forums but make sure that doesn't rob us of your opinions :)

Amrita: Thanks. You've managed to categorize all of the troublemakers pretty well :) I try to be non-judgmental but its hard. When you see someone making outright racist or sexist comments one does wonder about what kind of an upbringing the person must've had.

smallsquirrel: Glad you liked the post. I wrote it keeping in mind all our run-ins with the loud mouths :) I know how hard you've tried to engage some of them in dialogue and ended up frustrated. My own experiences have led to this article. It is really upsetting when you try to be rational and logical and decent and you just keep running headlong into belligerent trolls.

FF: Honestly, none of the current commentators on this thread thus far have ever used ad hominem without just cause and then demanded freedom of speech. The peope who this article is meant for will get the message and at least try to salvage their image by hopefully exercising some deccency in the coming discussions. Thanks for the comment!

Mr.Mathew: Thank you. Glad you liked the article.

Mansingh: I don't believe Taslima Nasreen is a good example to cite for internet freedom of speech. She is an author whose books one can choose not to buy. The internet is more like a broad media form that one surfs on and unwittingly find informtion which feed existing prejudice. Also Ms.nasreen has never to my knowledge shown up on public forums to insult authors.

I would have vehemently debated with you on the Mother Teresa comment but I think that is a whole other discussion not suitable at all for this thread.

Sandeep: Man Singh is trying to show us all how to represent Hinduism by using a mindset drastically contradictory to what is preached in Hinduism: one of intolerance. He uses the reverse psychology approach I think. :)

Aditi Nadkarni
September 10, 2007
04:10 PM

Hi Jawahara: I saw your comment immediately after responding to the other comments. Glad you liked the article. Honestly I was really hoping you'd voice your opinion since I remembered your post about blasphemy while writing this article:) So I wanted your take.

Believe it or not I kinda agree with you. In fact you make an interesting point about freedom of speech and expression as a creative apparatus. Society as a whole needs offenses to shake the foundations and rouse sensibilities. My own writing is peppered with enough controversy. You have my vote on the fact that offensive shouldn't immediately spell delete. We would lose out on a lot of sensational writing if that were to be the case.

Now, having said that, I personally find ad hominem and baseless namecalling utterly useless during a discussion. Certain prejudices may call for awareness but most established racial slurs and discriminatory comments don't add to a discussion at all. Those are not akin to criticism or blasphemy. There is no unqiue perspective involved in calling someone an a-hole or a c*nt. So basically what I mean is, "offensive" maybe subjective but identifiable and meaningless verbal abuse is not.

This may suprise some but lemme tell you something funny: personally I like to observe and receive even inflammatory responses. It gives me an insight into the various facets of society and how they respond to certain ideas. It tells me where my comments are touching and pinching. But when I see a curse word or personal insult in my thread it doesn't tell me anything except that someone ran out of logic.

I don't believe freedom of speech should be curtailed either. As an author, poet and writer curtailing free speech would significantly hurt my creativity. But I do support rules that temper and vitalize the responsibilities associated with freedom of speech. It is a beautiful privilege and we should be able to appreciate it, apply it, not abuse it. That was my point.

Thank you for your comment. I am glad you brought in a fresh perspective to this discussion.

Man Singh
September 10, 2007
05:07 PM


Sometimes people not having first hand experince about ground realities of teh society comment like you have made.

If you might have suffered in your life at the hands of dacoits attacking a village like I suffered, your whole world view might have been different altogater. Your views are based on purely theoretical idealism while I stand on the foundatiuon of ground level realism.

Internet or any other media everywhere propaganda wins. I am surprised how you are so quickly brands me `this' or `that' only because I advocate to `lock' my car becasue car thieves are there. I advocate to `keep survelinec camera' on my house only becasue I have seen thieves around.

I prefer to lock my car or lock my house because I have seen my house attacked many times.

You are not ready even to hear the genuine grevence of mine only because you were lucky not to face such assaults in your personal life.

That's why your whole world view is based on propganda and not based on realities.

Aditi Nadkarni
September 10, 2007
05:36 PM

Man Singh: If you are going to deny my entire "world view" and assume that my "real world experience" is not as significant as your run-ins with dacoits then I cannot really engage you in an exchange, can I?

Flexibility of thoughts and openness of mind are something that I have learned from my own real world experience. They serve me well even if thery mean nothing to you.

Our individual grievances seem most important and the most relevant to us...my own challenge is to not let these personal experience and limited exposure reign my prejudice.

I strive to not let my own experiences cause me to belittle somebody else's. That would be arrogant and presumptious.

Man Singh
September 10, 2007
06:11 PM


It is public forum. here we should talk how can we benefit the society based on our own experince and not merely theoretical proganda based opinions or articles written by seom vested interest people.

Flexibility is very good term and ideal when dealing with civil society.

You might have notices my worry is alway defence for the faith of poor people which rich guys try to assault. Should we be tolerant to such economic blackmail for religion?

Whenever I talk of tolerance, I invaders and tyrants and opressors are in my mind. Should we tolerate them?

Should we tolerate Jehadis bombing trains and killing innocent people, should we tolerate naxalites blcking developemnet of poor and weak by terrorising them, should we tolerate money lenders loan sharks playing with dignity of poor women, should we tolerate christian missioneris stripping off traditional faith of poor people using money or muscle power?

Yes I am tolerant even to a smallest creature like ant and ensure she stores enough food before rain starts.

I am tolerant to all ideologies including tantrikas, all ways of worship Indian or foreign and all systems of political ideologies unless they all help India grow.

If we can not tolerate exploitation of poor by rich landlord, if we can not tolerate exploitation of poor by a money lender, then what makes people like you to tolerate exploitation of poor by these associates of colonialists? This a topic of research for me really Aditi.

Should we be tolerant to tyranny and opressers like Gandhi preached or should we challenge the tyrants like Guru Gobind Singh, Netaji Bose and Bhagat Singh.

I will be happy to share your views to see which side of the wall do u stand. Are u on side of tyrants terrorists and invaders and their local associates or with those brave soldiers who are sacrificining their life and careers for the sake of humanity, for the sake India and civilisationaltional values originated from soiul of India?

September 10, 2007
06:26 PM

Man Singh maybe you should consider writing for DC rather than hijacking other threads with issues not relevant to the post. How do your experience and you efforts to make sure that the rich don't aasault the poor have anything to do with free speech on the internet.

Man Singh
September 10, 2007
06:51 PM

Yes It has to do. The culprits using their money power carry out huge loud professional polished propaganda including that in the net.

Views of poor disorganised due lack of their knowledge of english language, lack of resources in hiring profesisonal help make them vulnerable even in internet.

many a times `victims' are `demonised' by this powerful lobby in the internet as well and huge proganda material is used to defend the `culprits'.

false excuses are used to justify the crimes against humanity and people start beliveing their propaganda in absense of weak propaganda from the victims side.

This helpessness of poor can be felt by heart Jay and difficult to realise by those who never saw a suffering in their life.

This hegemony of rich is intact no matter it is internet, no matter it is news papers , no matter it is TV news channels or any other media.

It is a bitter truth jay no matter we digest it or not?

September 10, 2007
07:00 PM

Man Singh: true but this imbalance is an access issue not a freedom of speech on the net issue.

Man Singh
September 10, 2007
08:05 PM

Yes jay.

But look in our books Law treats equally all citizens of teh country.

But poor are imprisoned without producing before the courts while sanjay Dutt is releses in spite of being involved in acts of terrorism.

You can say it is problem of acess to law.

For me the outcome is the issue.

net outcome is that in spite of theoretical freedom of speech on the net, again even net is being used as tool for propganda of vested interests. Those who can shout loudly, attactively and professionally will be heard. those who can not aford to do that will bedeclared as `non existent'

Even 30 rs /month internet expenses are a dream for 84% of Indians even today. Then can we get even an iota of feeling of `truth' from tyhe net.

September 10, 2007
08:11 PM


with respect...the issue is effective communication

this medium has crossed the elitist threshold way back


September 10, 2007
08:42 PM

This, like much else, is a double edged sword (as Jawahara points out). I cannot speak for others but personally I have a few filters for subjects and people, i.e., I don't engage in web debates on certain subjects and/or with certain ppl.
Before I began blogging, I used to. But I slowly began to realize that I need to be selective, simply (and here I doff my hat to you) bcos I am too self centered to waste my time and energy on lost causes.

I seriously think that debates are overrated: especially on politics and religion and all those "big" concerns.
On a recent project, we teammates used to go out for happy hour and all the guys talked about was God (oh show me a more tedious subject I challenge you. Not an hour was happy those days;) It was healthy but beyond pointless.

I cant put it better than Amrita: the anonymity of the internet allows Jeckylls to unleash Hydes.

Deepti Lamba
September 10, 2007
10:39 PM

Man Singh, the internet is an unchartered territory and there are many sites available in vernacular langugaes.

Unlike the media which gives us filtered information the net actually expects its users to make up their own minds. Its the one place where we are solely responsible for what happens to us in the online world and sometimes it even has real life consequences.

But there are always instances where we face barrage of hatred whether it be race, class, financial or gender related and we are left feeling overwhelmed and powerless.

And thats where online communities make their own rules to protect the site and its users. Is it curtailing Freedom of Speech?

In some ways yes but rarely do we enjoy the right to abuse people or make threats in the real world so why should the cyber world tolerate this kind of crude and sometimes criminal behavior?

Apart from that anything goes depending upon the the kind of site it is and the users it is catering to.

And as far as getting duped goes lot of old people in the US got duped by fake lottery mails. Con Artists exist and we should use our wisdom before trusting people in real and online worlds.

September 11, 2007
10:27 AM

@ Mansingh

Call me plain stupid or dumba** but no matter how may times I read your responses, I just can't make sense out of them, nor I can relate them to the topic of discussion here or to any replies out here.

To summ it up I would just use your own words
"Sometimes people not having first hand experince about ground realities (or the matter of the topic is being discuss) of teh society comment like you have made"

P.s. I would love to talk about fifth estate and Mother Teresa's stand, but this is not the right forum.

Man Singh
September 11, 2007
10:34 AM

U may be right sandeep.

I realise that I am focussing more on net consequences of any media freedom rather then `freedom' itself.

I'll try to take some corrective action.

Thanks for making me realise that.

September 11, 2007
02:00 PM

Hate speech in Internet can be easily blocked by blocking IP addresses, blocking certain keywords in blogs and message boards.

The laws in internet are same as the laws in land.

So, I do not understand what the problem is.

Most people do not have a problem when "Sexy MF" Bhusain painted many Godesses nude because it was artistic freedom of expression.

"Newspapers and tabloids are held accountable if they promote racism, sexism or baseless defamation."

The same way blogs can also be held accountable.

Internet is where the true democracy reins.

In Internet unlike in case of Main Stream Media, it is not possible to pay someone to suppress a story.

The author may not have followed up the IIPM vs Indian Bloggers controversy. I wonder on which side she would have been at that time.

Virtually no newspaper carried this major controversy as IIPM sent legal notices to Gaurav Sabnis and Varnam. Gaurav had to resign from IBM. On which side, Indian bloggers at that time were?

Why MSM did not carry this story? Because, Arndam allegedly went to all media houses to work out a mechanism.

This article preaches us, trust Main Stream Media as its "page-3" editors are knowledgeable. That defies common sense.

Should I be believeing Jaya TV, Sun TV or NDTV owned by brother-in-law or Brinda Karat or should I be going through different perspectives given by bloggers.

It is a famous Indian tendency not to question the "Mai Baap". Even today, more than 50% of the content in Indian blogosphere (including DC) is just copy of the breaking stories in MSM with some minor observation. Its a pathetic state for Indian Bloggers as they can not break themselves free from MSM.

"My Dog Milli knows economics better than these two Bojos".

Is this statement by George Bush offensive?

Please note, libertarians always pulled "Free Speech" tags out of their hat, and some pseudo-libertarians are uncomfortable when someone else uses free speech.

Please note, I have personally come across enough amount of "angry" sexism in MSM and also in feminist blogs. I respected all that because of my belief is free speech. In DC, there were posts where it was urged that rapists be castrated. In another blog by a famous feminist, it was recommended that male criminals be boiled in hot oil. In another post, a sentence contained, "many men are beasts anyway"...Everyone accepted it as part of free speech.

In a Levi's advertisement Sushmita Sen sat on top of 3 men (in their underwears covered with mud), wearing Levi and the caption said, "Rule!".

This advertisement was in hoardings in prominent places in multiple cities. I never saw or heard anyone holding Levi's accountable.

The bottomline is, Internet is the poor man's media. Internet is the place, where there can never be any untouchability.

Hate speech is microscopic compared to the rich content that exists in Internet. Even that microscopic amount can be eliminated with usage of appropriate tools.

September 11, 2007
02:23 PM

all this navel-gazing and distinguishing from MSM or otherwise, sexist or not, is pointless, as Mcluhan explored decades ago. The message is the medium, and topics that are covered should be debated, not whether channel x or y covered issue p or q. Leastways, Desicritics and the open user-oriented media allow ANY topic to be covered, more power!

September 11, 2007
05:02 PM

34 Sumanth: It is funny that you should ask the author what the problem is by quoting "The laws in internet are same as the laws in land" :)


You are right, however. Just like there is anticipatory bail for people accused in the real world, there is a solution, a loophole to every law and a law for every offense in the virtual world (One wishes you would put this logic in another context but whatever).

I don't think this article is about whether there ins't a law (although Aditi can correct me if I'm wrong). I think it is about **why** there are laws and why people shouldn't equate freedom of speech with freedom of verbal abuse.

It is about taking responsibility for your own actions instead of demanding lawlessness, if you get what I mean. This can be applied in other contexts as well...in the real world.

September 15, 2007
03:40 AM

As some one who has recently been on the wrong end of a fair deal of 'internet bullying', and been dealing with it by editing out questionable portions of such comments (including comments that are laden with blatant name calling against the author of the post or other commentators, and comments containing libelous matter) I have also had to deal with the such "trolls", who predictably resort back by accusing me of oppression of free speech. The point you make hence resonated with me and I appreciate your efforts to highlight it. The truth is that freedom of speech, just like freedom of any other entity, is relative phenomenon. To quote Simon DeDeo (a Chicago based astrophysicist and literary critic who blogs at Slashdot), "your right to free speech ends where it steps on someone else's right. Just like my right to swing my arm ends before it connects with your nose."

My own personal guide for internet discussions is to never say something online that I wouldn't consider saying to that person face-to-face. This is a lot more about etiquettes then it is about oppression of free speech. If a student at a school, college or university starts abusing his or her teacher right in the middle of class because of view the teacher holds and the student disagrees with, then that student would need to be put in place and taught a lesson. Rules exist to allow for this to happen in most educational institutions around the world. I don't see why the axioms for etiquettes should be any different for the virtual world on the Internet. If you're not going to tolerate bad manner off line, there's no reason to tolerate it online. Name calling and personal abuse is bad manners. Its possible to be civil and yet disagree, even when the theme of a discussion may be by nature controversial. Thank you Aditi for pointing this out.

Aditi Nadkarni
September 15, 2007
01:50 PM

#37 Zianub: Glad you liked the article. I have always believed that disagreeing and presenting one's opinion is a sign of individuality and outspokenness. But using personal attacks under the convenient garb of anonymity is the lowest one could stoop to express their disagreement. It shows lack of class, basic deccency and civility. By quoting Simon Dedeo you've summed up the gist of my article.

Thanks for the comment! :)

September 15, 2007
01:55 PM


in THAT quote swinging should be replaced with 'flailing'

(sorry for being such a painful stickler)


September 16, 2007
03:56 PM

"She asked me if she should continue to try and save her abusive marriage instead of applying the Domestic Violence Act. "You said that the laws are too stringent. And if you as a woman feel they are too strict, maybe I should work my marriage out instead of going to the police", she said in her mail."

According to Domestic Violence act, a woman has to approach a court and not police.

It is simple brainwashing that going to police will save a marriage or stop abuse on a woman or give her a decent exist from an abusive marriage.

In the name of protecting women, the activists "empowered" not the women, but the unscrupulous police, who use the occasion to ask huge bribes and a portion of settlement amount in the police station under threats.

The first thing an abused woman has to do is to leave the house of the husband and go to a court and file for protection under DV act or under a private complaint. The court can pass an injunction/restraining order against the husband and in-laws.

Please note, it is easy to play with police, but not with courts where everything remains on record.

Brainwashing and spreading misinformation can be often dangerous for the very people who are supposed to benefit.

Aditi Nadkarni
September 16, 2007
04:41 PM

#40 Siffer:

"According to Domestic Violence act, a woman has to approach a court and not police."

This information is false and very misleading.

Going to the police will not save a marriage but it will provide the woman the means to file a grievance against the person who beat her up. An abusive marriage is not worth saving.

Thank for bringing this up. A domestic violence victim is not supposed to turn up at a court immediately post-abuse without a request for a protection order first being filed with the assistance of a police officer.

Please review the following excerpt from the DV Act itself and NEXT TIME before questioning the authenticity of information provided in my articles, take the time to evaluate YOUR OWN. It is not rocket science to comprehend that a woman beaten up should probably file a complaint with the police officer, receive medical attention and then have a request for protection order or restraining order be petitioned to the court:


Taken directly from the DV Act:

"(1) There shall be a section at every police station which shall, where practically possible, be staffed by at least one police officer with relevant expertise in domestic violence, victim friendly or other family-related matters. (2) A police officer to whom a complaint of domestic violence is made or who investigates any such complaint shall-- (a) obtain for the complainant, or advise the complainant how to obtain, shelter or medical treatment, or assist the complainant in any other suitable way; (b) advise the complainant of the right to apply for relief under this Act and the right to lodge a criminal complaint: Provided that, where a complainant so desires, the statement of the nature of the domestic violence suffered by the complainant shall be taken by a police officer of the same sex as that of the complainant. (3) A complainant who is not satisfied with the services of a police officer to whom he or she has reported a case of domestic violence shall have the right to register a complaint in accordance with any procedure prescribed for that purpose under section 19"


Nonetheless, that is not what the article is about. Hope the above information will end your grievance regarding "brainwashing and spread of misinformation".

I do not want abused woman out there to think that they cannot go to a police station to file a complaint of domestic abuse and will have to stand in a queue outside a court with bruises and cut lips.

September 25, 2007
12:27 PM

@ siffer
Ok, now I am totally lost.... what does domestic violence act has to do anything with freedom on speech on internet.

@ Aditi,
Congratulations... u have a major fan followwing. Your fans are following you everywhere ;-)

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