A Call for Withdrawal: The Controversial Telecommunications Bill, 2023 in India

A Call for Withdrawal: The Controversial Telecommunications Bill, 2023 in India
Photo by Julian Yu / Unsplash

Key Takeaway:
An international coalition of organizations and experts has urged the Indian Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to retract the proposed Telecommunications Bill, 2023. The bill faces scrutiny due to potential impacts on privacy, surveillance, and fundamental rights.

Summary:
The introduction of the Telecommunications Bill, 2023, in India has sparked significant concern among a global group of organizations committed to a free, secure, and open internet. The group's primary apprehensions include:

  • Threat to Encryption: The bill poses a risk to encryption, a cornerstone of online privacy and freedom of expression.
  • Unfettered Government Powers: It empowers the government to unilaterally impose internet shutdowns, a tool increasingly used to curb digital communication.
  • Expansion of Surveillance: The bill extends the government's surveillance capabilities without establishing independent oversight mechanisms.
  • Biometric Mandates: It compels telecommunication services to adopt "verifiable biometric-based identification," raising concerns over data privacy and misuse.
  • Echoes of Colonial Mandates: Critics argue that the bill perpetuates colonial-era governance models, prioritizing state control over individual liberties.
  • History of Internet Shutdowns: India's record of frequent internet shutdowns is worrisome, and the bill seems to entrench this practice further without sufficient safeguards.
  • Lack of Public Consultation: The bill's introduction in parliament occurred without public discourse, prompting calls for inclusive and sustained consultations to ensure the protection of encryption, privacy, and security.

The coalition believes that without significant revisions, the Telecommunications Bill, 2023, could undermine India's potential as a digital leader among democratic nations. The appeal for withdrawal is supported by a list of signatories from various organizations and individuals, underscoring the global concern over the bill's ramifications.

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Indian government must withdraw the Telecommunications Bill, 2023
International group of organisations and experts urge DoT, India to withdraw the Telecommunications Bill, 2023 and protect fundamental rights

SIGNATORIES:

Organisations

  • Access Now
  • Africa Media and Information Technology Initiative (AfriMITI)
  • ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
  • Article 21 Trust
  • Association for Progressive Communications
  • Avocats Sans Frontières France
  • Betapersei
  • Bloggers of Zambia
  • Center for Democracy & Technology (Global Encryption Coalition Steering Committee)
  • Centre for Internet and Society (CIS)
  • Centre for Law and Democracy
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Common Cause Zambia
  • Computech Institute
  • Derechos Digitales – América Latina
  • Digipub News India Foundation
  • Digital Empowerment Foundation
  • Digital Rights Watch
  • Ekō
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Epicenter.works
  • Fight for the Future
  • Freedom House
  • Front Line Defenders
  • Global Network Initiative
  • Give1Project Gambia
  • Global Partners Digital (Global Encryption Coalition Steering Committee)
  • Global Witness
  • Indic Project
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • Internet Governance Project, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Internet Freedom Foundation
  • Internet Society
  • Internet Society UK England Chapter
  • Last Mile4D
  • Majal.org – Bahrain
  • Media Diversity Institute – Armenia
  • MediaNama.com
  • MediaNet International Centre for Journalism
  • Mozilla (Global Encryption Coalition Steering Committee)
  • New America’s Open Technology Institute
  • OONI (Open Observatory of Network Interference)
  • Open Net Korea
  • OPTF / Session
  • PEN America
  • Polis Project
  • Privacy & Access Council of Canada
  • Proton
  • SFLC.in
  • Signal Foundation
  • Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet)
  • Superbloom
  • Swathanthra Malayalam Computing
  • Tech for Good Asia
  • The Tor Project
  • Tuta
  • Ubunteam
  • Voices for Interactive Choices and Empowerment (VOICE)
  • Wakoma
  • Webfala Digital Skills for all Initiative
  • YODET
  • Zaina Foundation
  • Zambian Bloggers Network

Individuals

  • Anivar A Aravind, Public Interests Technologist
  • Angela Uzoma-Iwuchukwu, Digital Rights Advocate
  • Adeboye Adegoke, Digital Rights Advocate
  • Divyank Katira, Centre for Internet and Society
  • Gurshabad Grover, technologist and legal researcher
  • Hija Kamran, digital rights advocate
  • Nikhil Pahwa, Founder, MediaNama
  • Yusif Amadu, University of Ghana/ISOC GHANA