GNI Welcomes Landmark Freedom of Expression Ruling by the Supreme Court of India

Date: 
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 20:06

The Global Network Initiative applauds today's landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of India in support of freedom of expression. 

"With this ruling, India's Supreme Court has rightly declared unconstitutional the infamous IT Act provision used to arrest individuals merely for "liking" online content, and provided important safeguards to help its burgeoning Internet industry succeed,” said Mark Stephens, independent chair of the GNI Board. 

The Court struck down as unconstitutional Section 66a of the IT Act, which provided the power to arrest individuals for posting allegedly “offensive” content, and which had been used to arrest individuals for posting content on Facebook and other social networks. 

The Court also strengthened the safe harbor provisions for Internet intermediaries in section 79 of the IT Act, requiring a court or government order for takedowns under this provision. 

In March 2014, GNI released a report prepared by the consultancy firm Copenhagen Economics, which found that internet intermediaries could add billions to India’s GDP, provided that the intermediary liability regime is reformed. 

Report co-author Dr. Bruno Basalisco, Digital Economy service leader at Copenhagen Economics, noted, “Removing legal uncertainty and restrictions that hamper freedom of expression and enterprise online is excellent news for India as a whole. Citizen freedom of expression and economic contribution go hand in hand: revised rules for online platforms that support user-generated content could increase their GDP contribution to more than 1.3 percent, equivalent to INR 2.49 lakh crore (or $41 Billion).”

Today’s ruling is a critically important step in that direction, and shows that freedom of expression and economic innovation are mutually beneficial. Learn more about the Internet laws affected by today’s ruling through our interactive slideshow.