Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bring Back Our Girls

About a year ago around 200 Boko Haram militants, a terrorist organisation of Nigeria abducted more than 200 Nigerian girls from a boarding school in the northern town of Chibok on April 14, 2014. The militants attacked the girls when they were asleep in their dormitory. After abducting the girls the militants set the school on fire. Few girls were fortunate enough to escape. Rest of the girls are still untraceable. We discussed this case in our class also.

The first question arises in our mind why Boko Haram attacked the schoolgirl? Boko Haram means “Western education is a sin” and further Boko Haram believes that the women’s place is in home and they should not take part in any political and social activity. That’s why they attacked the schoolgirls. The main objective of the Boko Haram is to establish Islamic State in Nigeria.

It is very heartening that escaped girls again returned to the school. It shows their firm determination to better themselves and most importantly their courage and fearfulness. Parents of the abducted girls believe that the Nigerian Government is doing nothing to free the abducted girls. Similarly, international community and governments are not providing enough help.

It is important to mention here that a huge social media campaign is going on White House website on change.org, Facebook and Twitter. There is a huge follower on the social media to the campaign "Bring Back Our Girls” and promoting awareness around the globe to the cause. We may agree that in real terms it may not have helped to free the girls, however, millions of people all around the world are there with this cause and exerting pressure on both Nigerian government and international countries/communities to take necessary steps to free the abducted girls. Hope that this social media campaign will go on till the girls are freed and social media community may support to the cause and provide moral support and boost up to our Nigerian friends.

Currently, in Nigeria election is going on. There is a close fight between current President Mr. Goodluck Jonathan and former dictator Muhammadu Buhari. The election is being fought on religious ground and voters are divided in Christian and Muslims. Mr. Goodluck Jonathan has a large support base of the Christian community and Mr. Buhari has large support base of Muslim community. It is believed that the ex-dictator has a clean image and when he was dictator he has been able to curbed the corruption to a significant extent. Currently, the counting is going on in the Nigeria and initial trends indicate that Mr. Buhari, the opposition leader may win the election.  We may hope for better whichever government comes in the power will act against the Boko Haram and will make honest effort to free the abducted girls.

Monday, March 30, 2015

India is only "Partly Free", But things are improving

Source: Freedom on the Net Report 2014, The Freedom House

The Freedom House, an independent agency based in Washington DC, annually surveys the extent of freedom of speech on the internet in 65 countries and publishes annual Freedom on the Net Reports. The organization has so far published 4 reports starting from 2011. Ratings are assigned on the aspects of obstacles to access, limits on contents and violation of user rights. The Report also assesses  a net score for a country on a scale of 0 to 100 (0 being the best). A country that scores less than 30 is classified as "Free", with score between 30 & 60 as "Partly Free" and with a score above 60 as "Not Free".

According to the 2014 report, 19 countries have been classified as "Free", with Iceland having the best score of 6. 31 countries are classified as "Partly Free" and 15 as "Not Free" (see - Country scores). India, with a score of 42 is right at the median of the distribution. India's scores in the 4 years unto 2014 have been fluctuating (32, 36, 47, 42). After having deteriorated for 2 years (2012 & 2013), there some improvement in 2014 (reduction of 5 points from 47).

The recent Supreme Court decision to repeal section 66A of the IT Amendment Act of 2008, shall go a long way in reducing violations of user rights and ensuring a higher degree of freedom of speech on the internet. Further improvements can be made by providing for appropriate oversight (judicial or administrative) for decisions of blocking websites under section 69A of the Act. Hope things would improve in coming days.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

How to boost the interaction in governemnt social media

It is not easy to boost the fruitful interaction between the government and people in social media.  When I look back the days I worked for the division of public housing in the ministry, it was difficult to understand that there was not many interaction in the social media despite the thousands of followers. I was in charge of housing policy and PR (Public Relations). So when the government announced the plans for supplying new housing or amendment of rules on housing supply, I released the statement to the press. I had to launch a campaign and manage the website. Also I had to manage the twitter account of public housing which was already created before. At that time the followers were slightly over 1,000 which was a very small number, considering that 100 thousand of public housing had been supplied every year. And when I twitted to inform the change in policy, there was not any retweet or reply at all.

I began to wonder why people are not showing any interest to the tweets although the housing issue is a really big deal in Korea. And I learned from the other staff that majority of the initial followers are not real demanders of public housing. When the twitter account for public housing was first created by outsourcing, the subcontracted company had to increase the followers in a short period. They randomly collected the followers. As a result, a large number of people who didn’t care about public housing policy became followers. No wonder that they remained quite at my tweets. Also the problem was that the people who are interested in public housing tend to get information from the traditional media or website rather than social media. The main target of public housing is people who are in the age range of late 20’s to 40’s and who are below the middle class. The older or the poorer they are, the less they used social media. Therefore, the social media was not an appropriate tool to access to our target.

However, it was too early to give up the potential demanders on Twitter. I regularly twitted the news for the demanders. And I held the quiz event with a small prize at my own expense. Gradually followers began to increase and interaction took place though it was not vigorous. It was difficult to keep up, because I was in charge of other works which were regarded more important in the division. But I learned that it is important to initiate and provide the opportunity to involve people to the conversation. And I believe that it would have been better if I could fully put my time and effort to the social media.

It is difficult for the government to draw the interest of the people and interact with them in social media in the beginning. However, if we aim the right target, set the right stage and have the right people to work, it is not impossible to achieve our goal in the long term.

   * My major takeaway from my experience

Consider the real target audience.

Set the stage to have attention.

Have staffs who can be fully involved in social media.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A win for free speech online in India !!

"On February 6, 2013, Sanjay Chaudhary was arrested under section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act for posting ‘objectionable comments and caricatures’ of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Union Minister for IT, Kapil Sibal and Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav on his Facebook wall" ("An Unreasonable Restriction", The Hindu, 02/20/13). Since its passage, the amendment had been cited as draconian and leading to suppression of freedom of speech.

The Supreme Court of India, on 03/25/2015, ruled that the sections 66A & 79A of the Indian IT Act were unconstitutional. The law was amended in 2009 making it mandatory for the social media website owners to remove content if any complaints were received regarding the content being inappropriate. It also gave powers to the police to arrest anyone if in their opinion the content was inappropriate. The court ruled that the definitions of what could be construed as "inappropriate", including terms such as "annoying, offensive, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill-will", was vague and amounted to violation of the right to free speech. Also, since the definitions were vague, the provision was liable to be misused (or abused) by the government (or police officials independent of the government), as mere causing of "annoyance" to anyone was sufficient to invoke the provisions for making an arrest. Consequent to the ruling only a government or a court can order removal of content.

Ironically the ruling has been welcomed by both the Indian National Congress, the party under whose regime the Act was amended in 2009, and the BJP, the party currently in power, though the government defended the repealed articles of the law in court. Activists are happy too, so are the content manager social media companies such as google.

More on the story at - 

India’s Social Media Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi

General Election 2014 of India was the first general election in which social media used widely in India. Present Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi used social media very well particularly Facebook and Twitter. In his entire campaign social media has played very vital role and change the outlook of Indian politics. Earlier political parties thought that social media tools are wastage of time. Now senior politicians are using social media platform more than the younger leaders. Mr. Modi has been able to communicate more audience through social media even in small towns and his tweets became taking point among the people. Social networking giant Facebook said “29 million people in India have made 227 million interactions through posts, comments, shares, and likes about the elections from the day they were announced.”

Mr. Modi rank second after the US President Barack Obama in number of fan followers. At present his Facebook fan followers are 27 million and twitter follower base is 11 million. Use of the social media in India cannot be compared with US where more than 70 per cent of the adult population uses social media. In India out of 814 million registered voters, only 103 million voters uses social media, which is miniscule compared to India’s 1.3 billion population. However, it is important to mention here that social media has a great impact on the Indian voters. A study conducted by the Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) suggests that it not only influence the voter turnout but also sways the results 3-4 per cent. Main national parties are now gradually started using social media. Amongst the political parties BJP has highest number of the Facebook followers and it is 7.3 million only. Mr. Modi met Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg in October 2014 to assist India to brig the gap in digital divide. He also asked to find the ways how social media can play a positive rile in reducing the terrorism. Now a days terrorist organisation around the world are using social media platform to recruit young terrorist. Do you have any idea how social media can paly a positive role in reducing in terrorism?

Neeraj Srivastava

Friday, March 27, 2015

Quashing of draconian provision under Indian IT Act

Section 66A of the Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 prescribes imprisonment for a term up to  three years including fine for a person who sends by means of a computer any information that is grossly offensive, cause annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity or hatred. In recent past few persons who had posted comments against some politicians or just liked such posts were charged under the controversial section. These provisions were challenged before the Supreme Court of India by way of Public Interest Litigations, which has disposed of the matter on 24th March, 2015 holding the Section as unconstitutional in its entirety and struck it down.

Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right to all the citizens. As such, the Section 66A of IT Act was an aberration, which has now been held as arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invading the right of free speech and upsetting the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right. The Court held that three concepts fundamental in understanding the reach of this right were discussion, advocacy and incitement. Discussion, or even advocacy, of a particular cause, no matter how unpopular it was, was at the heart of the right to free speech and it was only when such discussion or advocacy reached the level of incitement that it could be curbed on the ground of causing public disorder.

The Court also noted that mere causing of annoyance, inconvenience, danger, etc., or being grossly offensive or having a menacing character are not offences under the Indian Penal Code and these terms were left open-ended, undefined and vague in Section 66A of Act. Further, the Court held that the ordinary people as well the law administrators should be able to understand what conduct is prohibited and what is permitted.

The Court however, turned down the plea to strike down Sections 69A and 79 of the IT Act, which deal with the procedure and safeguards for blocking certain websites and exemption from liability of intermediaries in certain cases respectively as it noted that the provisions had necessary safeguards as blocking was to be done on a written order, recording the reasons, by the Central Government on the restrictions mentioned in Article 19(2) of the Constitution and  provided for hearings before the Committees.

Quashing the draconian Section is a step in the right direction and it would lead to free and open expression and exchange of the ideas on internet.


Technology, especially social media and wikis have changed the world dramatically, making the world flat, both smaller and bigger and more open. Trends such as globalization, economic change, and external dependence have created new realities for workplace”[1](*). How can Government harmonize those trends into their daily operation?
According to Todd Lyons, the Chief Information Officer Branch of Canadian Government, being influenced by these common senses about contemporary world, Canadian Government initiated to create the GC2.0 tools, called GCPedia, GCConnex and GCForums (referred as GC2.0 tools), specializing on online collaboration between all federal organizations.
Functionalities of GCPedia, GCconnex and GCForums
GCPedia is “the wiki-based collaborative workspace and knowledge-sharing platform”. It can be used for consultation, in which users invite other employees to share their thoughts about a specific policy or professional topic; for interdepartmental coordination; for event planning and organizing; and for practices for knowledge transferring, in which users can find whether there are similar projects or share resources before leaving (*). Similarly, GCConnex is “the professional networking platform for meeting and collaborating”, in which governmental employees can get connected by creating groups and inviting members into discussions for better sharing and team interaction (*). Additionally, GCForums is a threaded discussion forum for users can create threads to discuss about “hottest topics with young professionals across the country”[2].
GCPedia, GCconnex and GCForums are governed by both the laws enforced in the province of Ontario, and the laws of Canada; and the guidelines of the tools, which insist of legal and policy environment. Some critical rules include: all content on the GC2.0 Tools is subject to the Government of Canada legal and policy environment; all users of the GC2.0 Tools are to ensure that they conduct themselves in a manner that respects the laws, regulations and policies of the Government of Canada and the rights of other employees[3].
Making use of GC2.0 tools for collaboration promotion
Since its inauguration, GC2.0 tools have been used widely within Canadian Government. More than 60,000 users have registered three tools. By March 19, 2015, more than 55,000 registered users are using GCPedia everyday, sharing more than 26,000 articles with 43.5 million page views and contributing 1.3 million edits. Additionally, the number of GCconnex has grown 222% since the launch of Blueprint 2020 in 2011. More than 56,2000 users are browsing GCconnex to share 34,800 files, create 4,000 groups and 5,500 blogs (*).
To make use of both GCPedia and GCConnex for the purpose of promoting collaboration within the Canadian Government, users could use GCpedia to “create a completely open (within the Government) space to promote an initiative and provide information”, while GCconnex could “house an open or closed group for those interested (or mandated) to work on the initiative in more detail”, including ongoing discussions, bookmarks, chats, etc. GCpedia could have completely open policy consultation and development, while GCconnex could be used to target specific stakeholder groups. GCpedia could be used to plan/organize an event and GCconnex could be used during or after the event to share documents, have discussions, etc.
Some countries have experienced difficulties in engaging public servants in collaboration because public servants are reluctant to share their projects or ideas due to copyright or credit purposes. Even though the Government of Canada did not have the same difficulty, they experienced hard time in facilitating participation and collaboration. At first, most civil servants kept their documents for themselves and just e-mailed them around when requested. However, after and during using GCpedia, they realized that the service allowed federal employees to post, comment and edit articles placed on GCpedia by their peers. By doing so, the federal public servants hope it can make its processes and decision-making much more transparent. Therefore, they can actively participate in posting policies and sharing idea.
Tactics for developing countries
The fact is that using social media and wiki applications in intra-organizational network is limited in many countries, especially developing countries. To setup the same network like GCPedia and GCConnex in our home countries, Todd Lyons suggested the existence of a single, secure network internal to the Government. Other tips are the use of Free/Libre/Open-source software to reduces costs, simplifies technical issues; identify a core group of early adopters to begin populating the system with useful content, provide project guidance, provide group and individual support to users and publicly champion the system's use by others.
------Trang – Rose – Gyusik – Umashankar – Bala – Vijay-----

[1] and (*) Information from Todd Lyons’s presentation about Web 2.0 and Collaboration in the Government of Canada, delivered to Maxwell School’s students on March 25, 2015.
[2] GCForums. NCRYPN Quarterly Updates. https://ncrypn.wordpress.com/gc-forums-federal-ypn/
[3] GCPedia Terms and Conditions of Use. The Government of Canada, 2015.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Social Media Policy in Indian Context

In continuation of my previous blog on the subject, I would like to mention about the importance of response and responsiveness, content governance, security governance and governance of legal issues. It would also like to recall of professor emphasis on the issue of the citizen conduct, which is also crucial part of the policy. It is also relevant to mention that in the last session, our visiting guest speaker also mentioned about the importance of policy documentation and changes made subsequently in connection of GCPedia.

The policy on content management and responsiveness covers how often the page information to be updated, in what manner the response would be posted and what would be the turnaround time of response.  As a response policy, it is not  necessary to respond all posts immediately or individually. It is also important to ensure that posts are short and to the points, only reflect the official views.  We may set the time limit in advance to put a limit on the public expectation.

The posts may be classified into three categories-the routine response (Frequently Asked Questions and Fixed Response Formate), indirect response in terms of available information in public domains( query/complaints related to program/projects) and specific response. The supervisors levels officials may be authorized to respond the first two levels of posts and managerial level would be required to respond the third category. 

With regard to content management policy, only designated official may be allowed to post content on social media sites while ensuring its accuracy. The whole department will be responsible for the creation of the content but the same will be posted by the designated official such as System administrator to ensure the social media policy are adhered with. The policy adopted by the US Air Force in this regard is very relevant wherein their employee have been instructed to specify through a disclaimer that any comments provided by them on external social media sites are personal in nature and does not represent the views of the Department.

There are technical and behavioral security concerns for the use of social media as well. The technical concerns relate to password security, authentic of identity and functionality , etc. The behavior concerns refer to those threats that results from employee’s intentional or inadvertent actions. Thus, the need to follow a policy requiring safe custody of username and password,account informations etc is very important.

The social media policy must also ensure that the employee are abiding by all existing laws and regulations. The legal implications must be viewed in accordance with the law of land e.g. Right to information Act, Information Technology Act, 2000 ( As amended in 2008) and record management policy. Under Rule, 2011, the sensitive personal data has been defined very clearly subject to those information that is freely available or accessible or in public domain. The policy must also in compliance with the existing law governing data protection and privacy. 

As the social media platforms are based outside India and not governed by the Indian laws, the specific policy related to information security and archiving is needed. The need to engage with the service provider to work out Service Legal Agreement for convenient complaints and response mechanism between government and service providers is crucial element of the policy. It must be ensured that covers the issues on removal of offensive contents, content storage, shared access of content and archival mechanism , etc.

The policy must delineate the citizen conduct expected from the public. The social media site unlike traditional media allow instant two way public communication between government and citizens. The rules for the acceptable conducts on the part of the citizens are required to put limitations on offensive languages, inciting violations or promoting illegal activities. The similar policy is already in place for use of official website, the same are also applicable here.The social media usage policy should clearly specify that the following is forbidden : 

  1. Insulting, threatening or provoking language
  2. Inciting hatred on the basis of races, religion, gender, nationality or
     sexuality or other personal characteristics
  3. Swearing, using hate-speech or making obscene or vulgar comments 
  4. Libel, condoning illegal activity, contempt of court and breach of copyright
  5. Spamming, i.e., adding the same comment repeatedly
  6. Impersonating or falsely claiming to represent a person or organization
  7. Posting in a language other than the language of the website
  8. Invading people’s privacy
  9. Posting off-topic comments.

Looking forward for your suggestions and comments, please.