Early on 24 August, the YouTube channel of SabLokTantra, run by pro-nation, pro-Hindu video commentator Rachit Kaushik, was banned (deleted for ever) after a gang of communists and jihadis ensured the channel got three strikes. I received a call from another friend Saurabh Pratap Ojha who had earlier offered Rachit his channel Truth and Dare for the time that SabLokTantra stayed suspended. For the ‘crime’ of hosting Rachit, Saurabh’s channel was banned too. While the news of this latest case of censorship, which muzzles the voice of patriotic Indians and motivates anti-India forces, was disconcerting, I quickly regained my composure and seized the occasion to remind Saurabh what I used to tell Facebook users who made very good posts as updates on their respective timelines: One day, all your effort, following, fame, etc will be gone if your business relies on the vicissitudes or whims of another business.
To avoid that, create a medium of your own or, until you put in place your own media and host (server), contribute to those who share your ideology and are already running websites, I’d advise them. We would ultimately need an alternative Google/Apple too because when they cannot control your site, they will try to pull the mobile application (app) down from Play Store and App Store, as they had done with Parler, an initiative by Republicans in the US who had tried to float a substitute for Twitter after being denied their freedom of expression by Jack Dorsey’s company. The woke administration of Google and Apple used the Capitol Hill riot as an excuse to shut up Parler; in India, they would use any communal flare-up as a ruse.
It is important to mention here why such censorship is wrong. In a properly functioning state, the agency that has the responsibility of booking and arresting people for what they perceive as a violation of some law of the land is the police. Thereafter, a court decides whether the accused has been rightly or wrongly framed. A user or consumer, for example, a phone or broadband user, may misuse the service — say, by making a threat call to somebody — and, yet, the service provider, be it Airtel, Jio or Vodafone-Idea, cannot take action against the guilty unless instructed by the law-enforcement agency. By letting Twitter, Facebook or Google (YouTube’s owner) tell right from wrong on the basis of its so-called community standards rather than the law of the land, the administration is allowing these companies to run a parallel government in the country. The question is not whether a big shot like then-US President Donald Trump was telling the truth or was lying through his tweets. The question is whether Twitter, Facebook and YouTube should have had the authority to ban him. The same principle must apply to satirist Rachit Kaushik. And, therefore, let us not get into the argument over the content that these platforms found objectionable.
Unable to get this straight, the government came up with some IT rules, reading which one wonders what they were trying to achieve by insisting that these American companies must appoint an Indian grievance redress officer each. The drafting of the rules reeks of terrible bureaucratic intervention. While a new government is supposed to implement its agenda with the help of bureaucrats, for the past seven years, the nation has witnessed how the babudom dictates how Modi’s laws must read like.
The issue is whether companies that have been given the status of intermediaries should have a right to censorship. The Government of India should have said “No”. Plain and simple. What’s this grievance officer baloney?
The reason the government cannot do this is that the dispensation itself asks these companies time and again to pull down someone’s Facebook post, tweet or YouTube video. You cannot have it both ways. Either you are for censorship or you are against it.
Unfortunately, people on our side do not realise the virtues of a free market. If the concept of freedom is applied absolutely, issues such as the one Rachit is facing can be dealt with too. It’s not a demand for utopia. Some countries have demonstrated it can be done. Charlie Hebdo is still thriving in France.