India court strikes down law criminalizing offensive Facebook speech
India court strikes down law criminalizing offensive Facebook speech

[JURIST] India’s Supreme Court [official website] struck down [judgment, PDF] a law on Tuesday that gave authorities the power to jail people for offensive online posts. Bloggers, writers and rights groups challenged India’s Information and Technology Act after arrests were made across the country for statements posted on social media. “The law hit at the root of liberty and freedom of expression,” Justice Nariman wrote, overturning the law. “Our constitution provides for liberty of thought, expression and belief. In a democracy, these values have to be provided within constitutional scheme. The law is vague in its entirety.” The law was introduced in 2008 by the last government. The government of Prime Minister Narienda Modi has said it welcomes the ruling.

Internet freedom [JURIST backgrounder] remains a controversial issue around the world. In December the US Supreme Court heard arguments [JURIST report] in a case involving threatening rap lyrics posted to Facebook. A decision is expected by June. Last year the Turkish president approved a law [JURIST report] that tightens the government control of the internet and expands the powers of the telecoms authority. In 2013 a Canadian human rights group unveiled research [JURIST report] indicating that a number of nations are using American-made Internet surveillance technology that could be used to censor content and track their citizens. The UN Human Rights Council in July 2012 passed its first-ever resolution to protect the free speech [JURIST report] of individuals online. The resolution was approved by all 47 members of the council, including China and Cuba, which have been criticized for limiting Internet freedom. Also in 2012 China adopted stricter rules [JURIST report] on both Internet providers and users. In November 2012 Russia passed a law [JURIST report] giving the nation the authority to completely block access to certain websites.