“The proposed changes have an authoritarian bent,” said Apar Gupta, executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, a digital rights group, which plans to challenge the rules in court if they are enacted. “This is very similar to what China does to its citizens, where it polices their every move and tracks their every post on social media.”
India’s proposals add to the growing resistance worldwide against internet behemoths like Google and Facebook, which once flourished largely unimpeded. In Europe, officials last year enacted tough new rules to protect people’s online data, forcing the companies to change some practices. China has long used a system of internet filters , known as the Great Firewall, to block content and shut out global tech companies. And in a 2017 review , The New York Times tallied more than 50 countries that had passed laws in recent years to gain greater control over how their people use the web.
The Freedom House report said that Beijing was taking steps to "propagate its model abroad" with large-scale trainings of foreign officials, providing censorship and surveillance technology, and pressuring international companies to comply with Chinese standards even when operating outside the country.
The result may be a splintering internet, where a onetime unified information superhighway has become increasingly restricted in certain areas. In India, the government has used laws to nudge people away from the American tech giants and toward local competitors , such as ShareChat, a social network that operates only in Indian languages, and Reliance Jio, a cellphone giant bankrolled by India’s richest man.
Mishi Choudhary, founder of SFLC.in, a legal advocacy group in New Delhi, said Indian governments had tried for nearly a decade to exercise more control over internet content but had been restrained by the courts. Now the government is trying again, she said.
“Ministers have said these companies will have to comply with Indian rules, and Indian rules are pretty regressive,” said Ms. Choudhary, whose group filed comments opposing the new rules. “We have Indian morality. We have to keep law and order. And we cannot hurt religious sentiments.”