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Jaya Pradeep asked: What are the pros and cons of India agreeing to International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs) especially from the point of view of internet, free speech, cyber security, etc?

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  • Cherian Samuel replies: Signing the ITRs would have made very little difference within India since there is comparatively very little regulation within the country. However, it could have provided a fig leaf to the actions of governments that have tried to tightly control internet content in other countries.

    In and of themselves, the proposed ITRs are quite innocuous, with even the contentious provisions, such as, the Article (5A) on the "Security and robustness of networks" and Article (5B) on "Unsolicited bulk electronic communications" or spam being, on the face of it, necessary for the well-being of cyberspace. At the same time, the apprehensions that these provisions would be liable to misuse through deliberate misinterpretation are also well-founded given attempts at controlling the Internet by several countries. The passing of these ITRs would have legitimised such efforts and this was the reason why there was opposition on the part of other countries to bring the Internet within the ambit of the ITRs and giving a greater role to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

    India, with the third largest Internet user base, is increasingly seen as a swing state on matters of internet governance. The Indian Government decided to take a considered view on signing the ITRs and is one of the 45 countries that have deferred that decision. Countries have to ratify the ITRs by January 1, 2015.