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Snapping TikTok, signalling Twitter: Ban and beyond

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Utkarsh Awasthi
लेखक स्टटिस्टिक्स में परास्नातक एवं पॉपुलेशन स्टडीज में जे.आर.एफ. हैं। राजनीति, अर्थव्यवस्था, धर्म, समाज , अध्यात्म एवं साहित्य के अध्येता हैं।

The violent scuffle between Indian and Chinese armed forces in the Galwan valley has put bilateral relations on a different hostile path. Indian forces not only retaliated by killing at least 40 of PLA personal but also India hit back to china on the economic front, though in pieces. The most visible among economic reactions was a sudden ban on 59 Chinese Apps.

At first sight, it appears that the ban was a retaliatory measure and only related to the current heat prevailing at icy tops of Himalaya but if you go by government’s rationale behind ban it appears much more.

Government of India cited the issue of ‘safety and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace‘ as the reason behind the ban on these apps. The reason given by India opens a sky-full scope to deal similarly with other social media platforms which are going rogue.

Twitter is the most notorious irritant of them. Almost all patriotic twitter handles- big or small- are suffering from twitter’s anti-India and anti-Hindu behaviour over the years. Shadowbanning, non-appearance of tweets on follower’s timeline, lowering the retweets and likes count, blocking tweets and accounts, putting in the tweet restricted category, hiding images as sensitive etc. have been multiple biases of twitter against pro-India voices. All these incidents have been done in an arbitrary and bizarre manner.

If I name a few, handles like True Indology, Rangoli Chandel has been forcefully deleted without citing sound reasons. Even account of Indian Army’s Chinar Corps was once suspended. And, these are just a few examples of the large anti-India approach of Twitter India. Interestingly, video mocking Hindus, slogan against India, open abusive tweets on ancient Indian culture, ridiculing Hindu gods and goddess- all flourish at the same time. If you report, twitter would reply that they are against twitter policy but twitter would never take any action against them.

Recently, Twitter flagged the content of US President Donald Trump as abusive and even deleted one of his posted videos. This action created controversy worldwide on how far a digital platform can go. These platforms have the capacity to make an influence on the public at large cutting across national governments and geographical boundaries. They have been used politically many times. The USA can have its own solutions because servers, administrative set-up and global head office of twitter lies in their home territory. They fall under the jurisdiction of laws and courts of the USA. Same is not true for India.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey even once conceded that most of the Silicon Valley start-ups are left-leaning.

Wikipedia is again a major anti-India platform. Their information is highly communist and Islamist leaning. A plethora of misinformation has been put against India. Information about India’s history, wars India fought, its approach towards foreign policy, internal issues of India, faith, ethnicity, name of places… and what not!- all have been highly distorted. This is serious as Wikipedia is the first hand source of information for many internet users across the globe. Most of them do not re-check the available information and blindly believe in it. Defacing information pages of pro-India setups, people and organization appear to be a regular phenomenon on Wikipedia. Opindia-the platform at which I am writing this piece- has been at the receiving end of venomous conducts of Wikipedia. Manipulation of Indian map and showing Indian Territory as foreign land has also been a trademark element of the anti-India tirade of Wikipedia.

Facebook, though I know very little, has been accused time and again by nationalist voices for its anti-India policy sugar-coated with some fancy morals. Every now and then, Nationalist pages have been deleted by Facebook. In recent anti-Hindu Delhi riots, Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg falsely accused BJP’s popular leader and former MLA of Delhi assembly Mr Kapil Mishra as a hatemonger.

Deletion of an anti-TikTok roast video of famous YouTube video blogger and gamer CarryMinati showed YouTube also falls in this league. Information and research videos of sane voices like Neeraj Atri, Satya Sanatan, Upword and OpIndia and many more have been demonetized because they found their research-based videos against the arbitrary policies of YouTube.

These platforms influence Indian mindset, use digital policing, make their own rules and create hegemony over the user’s data.  And all these so-called rules and policy are nowhere aligned to Indian legal and constitutional set-up. They flaunt each and every norms and snatch freedom of expression bestowed upon Indian citizen by the constitution of India under Article 19. Apparently, they try to become a sovereign entity parallel to the Indian State. They are creating their own empire within India, against India.

When Japan hosted the G-20 summit in 2019, Shinzo Abe and Donald Trump, both good friends of our PM Narendra Modi, have proposed ‘Osaka Declaration’. This was an overreaching framework promoting cross-border free-flow of data. Modi, as always, stood rock solid and resolutely refused to sign the document defying every pressure created by Japan, Europe and the USA. India clearly stated that our domestic industry has yet to evolve to match the competence of global players and allowing free-flow of data would let them an advantage of India’s digital wealth.

Safety of our citizen’s Data is also the government’s top priority when the game is being played in the global digital arena. Data Localization-physical storage of data within the territory of India- is being pushed by the government as we are one of the largest generators of internet data. To start the process, RBI had issued guidelines in 2018 to digital payment operators like PayTM to compulsorily store user’s data in India.

Now, the Indian Government for the first time invoked the principle of digital sovereignty against a foreign-based digital service provider. By providing explicit reasons on TikTok ban, the signal transmitted by the government seems clear- fall in line and follow the Indian law. Eardrums of Twitter, Facebook and Wikipedia must have felt the sensation of govt’s slap on the cheeks of TikTok-plus-58.

‘Data is the new oil’, ‘Data is the new form of wealth’, ‘who will control the data, will control the world’- all these phrases have been heard many times by all of us. Not to forget Data will also be the most potent weapon to destabilize a hostile country. In this sense, Data can be called ‘new nuclear weapon’.

Kicking Chinese Apps out on the data sovereignty ground is a firm step towards preparing ourselves against the efforts of modern digital colonization. And, if we connect the next dot of Osaka Declaration denial, we can say New India also has new aggression when it comes to protecting its sovereignty- be it territorial or digital.

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Utkarsh Awasthi
लेखक स्टटिस्टिक्स में परास्नातक एवं पॉपुलेशन स्टडीज में जे.आर.एफ. हैं। राजनीति, अर्थव्यवस्था, धर्म, समाज , अध्यात्म एवं साहित्य के अध्येता हैं।
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