<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Indian government will ensure that every citizen has a right to access the Internet but is also determined to keep radical elements and terrorists from abusing social media platforms to perpetuate hate and terror, Union Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Thursday.”Without going into the larger nuisance of net neutrality, in India, we have taken a new position that the right of access is important and is not negotiable,” he said at the Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) here attended by delegates from 131 countries.Prasad said that the government has turned down social networking giant Facebook’s Free Basics programme because it offered access to select Internet services.”When I was handling the communications department, my friend Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met me a number of times with the idea of Free Basics… Free Basics is that everything will be free if you enter through my (Facebook’s) gate… India is a democracy, we don’t believe in one gate,” he said.The minister said that the government will not allow any company to restrict citizens’ entry to the worldwide web. “We believe in multiple gates. Therefore, this gate locking for India will not be accepted and I did not allow it. This stems from our commitment that the Internet must be accessible to all.””Being a democratic country, India upholds privacy and is governed by the rule of law and constitution. But privacy cannot prohibit innovation,” he said.Prasad’s comments come amidst a debate over net neutrality in India. Telecom regulator TRAI is yet to announce its recommendations on this issue and a consultation process is still on. It has, however, banned Bharti Airtel’s Airtel Zero and Facebook’s Free Basics that would have offered free access to some sites available on their platforms.The minister said, “Most importantly, privacy cannot be the shield of the corrupt, terrorist and the extremists. Radical elements and terrorists are abusing social media platforms to perpetuate hate and terror but India is determined to address the misuse of cyber space and thwart them.”However, there is a need to strike a balance in data availability, data utility, data innovation, data anonymity and data privacy, he said.”Our view is — any digital initiative should bring digital inclusion, bridging the digital divide, and most importantly, it should be powered by tech which should be affordable, developmental and inclusive. That is where our (the government’s) responsibility also becomes very important. Abusing this platform for child pornography is again a serious issue,” he said.”What is the digital profile of India? 1.30 billion people, 1.21 billion mobile phones, 1.18 billion Aadhaar numbers — a digitally verifiable identity, completely safe and secure law.”He also talked about broadband project BharatNet and said, “We are laying down optical fibre in 2.5 lakh panchayats. One lakh has been covered. A big model of inclusion is common services centres.”India has been advocating for a multi-stake holder approach for Internet governance so that not only the governments but also other stake holders become an active participant in managing one of the greatest innovations of mankind, the minister said.


Right to Net is not negotiable: Ravi Shankar Prasad