On the internet everyone knows I’m not a dog
Some thoughts on 114a and the online campaign to stop it.
There are a couple issues that I think have been overlooked by the government and the movement against it.
1. The issue is in some ways trivial because ultimately this is about how we choose to present ourselves in virtual space. The evidence act, regardless of how it is worded, does not pay any heed to the core idea of online representation. My argument is that an individual ought to have the right to package herself as she sees fit, anonymously even. Granted, this poses some problems when abused, but its neither a technological nor a legislative issue. It is simply a psychological matter, and its at the very core of what defines us as humans. We should not be expected to be less human on the internet. And it is, in my opinion, beyond the scope of government.
2. The person I am at home is different from the person I choose to be in the company of strangers. It is a survival trait that defines our very being - to portray the most ideal character in a given environment to exploit the opportunities at that particular moment. We are chameleons, whether we realise it or not. And it should be no different on the internet.
3. 114a appears to try and address this by being able to point to a particular individual as being the one responsible for a certain comment posted online. Given the complexities, it is easy to understand why the onus ought to fall on the person who owns the platform. I do think there is a case for shifting the burden on publishers, which is no different from how it is practiced offline (newspapers, magazines etc). However, participatory platforms like online forums can’t possibly accept the burden due to its open nature.
4. We need to understand the argument about the internet being a democratic space. The idea of democracy was not so much about our ability to share information. It was about our ability to present ourselves as different sets of information as required. We gave up that democratic right as soon as we chose to make ourselves identifiable and quantifiable on Facebook and Twitter. And it is for that reason that the government now knows I am indeed not a dog and hence are encouraged to sniff me out if I behave badly.
Cartoon by Peter Steiner