Congress’ Manish Tewari and BJP’s Sambit Patra agree to disagree on governing internet

Manish Tewari, former Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Sambit Patra, National Spokesperson, BJP discuss ‘Freedom of Speech, its impact on internet governance’ at an ASSOCHAM event

e4m by Abid Hasan
Published: May 16, 2015 9:19 AM  | 3 min read
Congress’ Manish Tewari and BJP’s Sambit Patra agree to disagree on governing internet

Manish Tewari, former Minister for Information and Broadcasting has said that internet must be set free and it should be governed by all.

“The mistake that we make when we talk about internet governance is that we try and exploit the rules of the physical world for a virtual world. The fact is that humanity has created a virtual civilisation. A virtual civilisation, which has its own rhythm and own dynamics and it has its own norms,” said the former minister, adding, “So therefore, this penitent in this internet governance debate to try and see the internet as an extension of the human self is possible but contradictory in terms because the genie is out of the bottle .The virtual civilisation probably, like it or not, has a life of its own.”

Curbing the internet rights is not something new and this has been going on with changing governments. Tewari said that there is a lesson which needs to be learnt that is one can disconnect the net but one won’t be able to stop the freedom of speech and expression of the internet.

“Since you have different value systems in the world, some more permissive and some are not, this is the reality you have to live with till the time some agreed rules of engagement as opposed to the governance do not emerge on the internet because, personally, I am not a supporter of internet governance. What are we going to do about privacy? Privacy is going to be the first frontier and the biggest fight in the decade will be the pause of the state of the internet, which it would try and unseat in the name of security.”

The minister felt if someone cares about privacy, then one should really disconnect from the internet because the moment one gets on the web, ones moves are tracked for commercial gains. “Believe me, if you let the internet be, if you let it evolve at its own rhythm, the internet would be better off.” 

Commenting on Tewari’s views, Sambit Patra, National Spokesperson, BJP, said, “Anyhow, we cannot disappear in this world even if we tried. We’ll be caught somewhere.”

Patra further said that internet is extremely important and since it is extremely important for governance also, since every person is within the ambit of governance, internet has to be governed but within the framework of law. This doesn’t mean taking away the essence of internet, which is freedom of expression. And that’s the reason probably why 66A and net neutrality are such discussed topics.”

Retreating from what the IT Minster Ravi Shankar Prasad had said in the past, Patra said, “Internet is a creation of mind and hence the mind cannot be put within boundaries. Mind does not have boundaries of countries also. So internet has to be governed through non-discretionary ways by the application service and the whole process is for the benefit of mankind at large.”

Shedding light on the latest development on Net Neutrality, he said, “The committee has been formed by the government. It is yet to submit its report. TRAI is moving ahead and it’s working (towards it). Once TRAI submits it reports to the telecom commission and thereafter the commission approaches the government, the government will take a view in favour of the people.”

The speakers were sharing their views on the topic ‘Freedom of Speech, its impact on internet governance’ organised by ASSOCHAM in New Delhi on Thursday.

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