The last century can be rightfully named the era of democracy. No period in human history had so many countries choose their rulers through the power of the ballot. Despite its many faults, democracy gives power to the people. In India, voting is the only thing equal to the billionaire and the homeless, the elite ivy league educated upper class and the illiterate farmer in a remote tribal hamlet. Irrespective of caste, creed, language, religion, or gender, it gives every Indian a say in who should rule us and how. We may not get the perfect rulers, but at least theoretically, we have the power to change him or her through the ballot box.
We are entering a tyranny that would perhaps shut the small window of democracy forever. Or maybe, we have already entered it but busy as we are with the cute cat videos that pop up in our mobile phones, we have failed to notice it. Twitter banned Donald Trump, then sitting president of the US, from its platform. Trump had 88 million followers, and yet, Twitter concluded that they should permanently ban him due to the risk of incitement to violence. Maybe, he deserved to be booted out. But that is not the point. In a democracy, the media is supposed to allow all spectrum of opinion to be heard, however obnoxious.
In 2017, Facebook was fined €110 million by the European Commission for misleading it about the 2014 takeover of WhatsApp. The punishment for violation of its citizens’ privacy is to the extent of €20 million or four percent of the company’s annual global turnover. The new tech colonialists find India a fertile ground to hunt. The Personal Data Protection Bill of 2019 is still pending with the Joint Parliament Committee. Though it is more stringent than the existing laws, the proposed fine of `5 crore is small change for the tech giants.
The invaders of the past came in battleships. Now they sneak in through that shiny device in our pocket. If they want to do business in our country, we should lay the ground rules. Such private monopolies should be broken. We are supposed to be a significant IT power. Let us show it by developing alternate platforms like what China has done. And the Data Protection Bill should be as stringent as that of Europe. Else, it might be time for Indians to be prepared to be a colony once again. Do we really need to be ruled by a few tech billionaires and their coolies in Silicon Valley?
Anand Neelakantan firstname.lastname@example.org
Author of Asura, Ajaya series, Vanara and Bahubali trilogy