G7 sides with India on having more control on internet freedom


As the world is becoming more digitally oriented, many areas which were not considered a national issue are creating a problem with government and public behavior.

While the internet is the place to express one’s freedom, with social media platforms acting a voice enabler, the governments are sensing a loss of control over their citizens. Recent events around the world have shown how frequently governments across the world have been shackled and threatened by social media campaigns and simple hashtags.

India, especially, has been the center of attention for many unfortunate reasons for the past few years, where the Modi government has been constantly questioned and challenged, for its extreme measures on controlling internet freedom.

On this regard, India had taken this issue during the recent G7 summit. Government sources said that internet freedoms are subject to national security.

It claimed that India’s tough negotiations on the joint communique issued by G7 and Guest Countries at the session on Open Societies had ensured that the original language criticizing “Internet shutdowns” had been amended to include New Delhi’s concerns.

The explanation came after the ‘G7 and Guest Countries: 2021 Open Societies Statement’ referred to “politically motivated Internet shutdowns” which indirectly addresses Internet blackouts in various parts of the world including India.

Kashmir has experienced Internet and mobile telephony shutdown since Article 370 was amended on August 5, 2019. Similar communication shutdowns were witnessed in Delhi and Assam during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act during 2019-2020 and the farmer’s protest last January.

Communication shutdowns were also witnessed in other parts of the world including Hong Kong where a protest against Chinese security laws intensified during 2019. The G7 statement also took note of developments in military-ruled Myanmar as well as in larger economies.

“We are at a critical juncture, facing threats to freedom and democracy from rising authoritarianism, electoral interference, corruption, economic coercion, manipulation of information, including disinformation, online harms and cyber-attacks, politically motivated Internet shutdowns, human rights violations and abuses, terrorism and violent extremism,” declared the statement referring to the problems facing the democratic world.

The assertion in the statement appears to touch upon several issues that are sensitive in nature as they are often subjected to public debate in India. Sources indicate that the mention of the topics in the statement took place in the backdrop of sustained exchange of opinion between G7 and Indian teams. Government sources said that “politically motivated Internet shutdowns” clarified that national security and public order concerns are an exception to the need for Internet freedoms

According to the sources, during his visit to London in early May, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had fielded several questions about the government’s actions against protestors and the clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir after August 5, 2019.

The sources said Mr. Jaishankar had “made it clear” that law and order concerns were important and public safety had to be prioritized when regulating flow of information. He also had fielded specific questions about the Internet shutdown for months in Jammu Kashmir as well as during the Republic Day protests by farmers in Delhi this year. Jaishankar had attended the meetings virtually as he was under quarantine in London after some officials tested positive for coronavirus.

The G7 Foreign Ministers-level statement issued earlier in May, however, had also referred to “Internet shutdowns” as a subject that the organization is aiming to counter.