Shutting down the Internet to deal with a law and order situation is like closing the entire road just because some drunk driver may use it, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has stressed.
Rather than going for shutdowns, law enforcement agencies should use the Internet for their own advantage, said Tharoor, who is also the Chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology.
The former Under-Secretary General of the UN was speaking at a Twitter-moderated panel discussion on the importance of open Internet amid Covid-19 pandemic late Tuesday.
"Do not go for shutdowns, find ways for tackling the problems about using the Internet for your own advantage," Tharoor said, addressing concerns of law enforcement agencies.
"I always believe that the best antidote to misinformation is good information. You yourself are at a stage where you can use the Internet to become a source of reliable information," he said in response to a question by IANS.
Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao and Samir Saran, President Observer Research Foundation (ORF) also joined the discussion moderated by Mahima Kaul, Director, Public Policy, India and South Asia at Twitter.
Tharoor said that the Parliamentary Standing Committee wants to protect the individual Indian's rights to have access to the Internet, to get good information from the Internet and not to be denied the use of the Internet.
"It's important that the liberties of Indian citizens should not be infringed upon by this government or any govt. Or by any system that allows this liberty to be infringed upon," he said.
"To my view, if we get that all right, we can tackle the Kashmir Internet shutdown problem, we can tackle the Internet misinformation problem and we can even tackle any potential misuse of the Arogya Setu app and the same time we can give the police a very useful tool to do their job more effectively if they use it in that way."
The Bengaluru Police Commissioner agreed that "connectivity" has now become a very important issue.
"After roti, kapda, makaan, connectivity has now become a very important issue. When there is no roti, kapda aur makaan there are law and order problems. These law and order problems are going to exist when there is no connectivity also," he said.
"The Internet has been our lifeline and in all ways we must and we should, as far as possible, have an independent Internet which is unhindered but extremely localised at times that need control.
"But this control is not with a malafide intention but to preserve peace in the larger interest of the society," Rao said, adding that dependence on the Internet has grown over the past three and a half months.
Tharoor also pointed out how Covid-19 "completely exposed the digital divide".
"It has been a stark reminder of this entire experience for those of us who are privileged enough to be on the web, to be on the Internet and are not like the 3.7 billion people on the planet who do not have access to the Internet," he said.
"The pandemic tells us that digital is now more than just a luxury or an option, digital today is life. The right to life and the right to livelihood and the right to express our thoughts are all implicated by our access to the digital so an open Internet for India would be Internet available to all," said Saran of Observer Research Foundation.
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