Freedom vs. agitation on the Internet: The riots in India.

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The US government has asked the Indian government to respect the freedom of the internet after Indian authorities blocked about 250 websites to prevent bloody communal tensions. Margherita Stancati and Tom Wright from the “The Wall Street Journal” and authors from the “India Times” examine the problems of preventing abuse using the internet.
 
Thousands of Indians tried to escape from the northwest of the country afraid of a backlash in communal tensions which had risen up in the weeks before. A conflict about land between the two major religious groups had claimed around 80 lives and was further incited on the internet. Fake pictures and videos with titles like “Bodies of Muslims killed by Buddhists” circulated; inflammatory texts were posted on websites and spread by SMS text messages. To prevent further violence the Indian government blocked about 250 sites in accordance with local legislation in an attempt to stop offensive content. However closing access to offensive pages by Google or on Facebook caused considerable problems. The situation put both countries at odds, with India being disappointed by the lack of support and the US criticizing India for what it perceived as censorship.
 
Concepts of freedom, especially when defined in legal terms, differ considerably between cultures and the extent to which potentially hateful and inflammatory content is accepted as part of the freedom of expression is discussed worldwide. Countries with developing literacy and education programs may, with perhaps understandable justification, be more conservative as they may have to fear that rumors and misinformation are used to weaken labile social structures or that minorities are harassed. Freedom is also freedom of hatred and offense by others.