Business Wire India

The Dialogue, a Delhi based Tech Policy think tank, organized a National Debate Competition on ‘Internet Freedom’ on February 27th and 28th in collaboration with Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi. With the New IL Guidelines being notified only last Thursday, this debate could not have been more timely!

The competition saw the participation of more than 160 students from across India from more than 50 different universities. The competition was adjudged by Mr. Dhanendra Kumar, Senior Bureaucrat and Former Chairman, Competition Commission of India, Mr. Anand Venkatnarayanan, a Privacy Professional and a Public Interest Technologist, Ms. Zeba Warsi, Special Correspondent CNN News18, Mr. Rahul Sharma, Founder, The Perspective and Mr. Kazim Rizvi, Founding Director, The Dialogue.

The team from Symbiosis Law School, Pune demonstrated exemplary skills and was adjudged as the ‘Best team’ while the team from NALSAR was adjudged the ‘Runners Up’. Ms. Vanshika Nandwani from J.C. Bose University of Science and Technology, Faridabad bagged the prize for the Best Speaker while Mr. Shashank Venkat achieved the feat of ‘Second Best Speaker’.

The year 2020, saw everyone’s lives steadily converge into virtual spaces as people significantly depended on the internet for almost everything be it classes, meetings or even entertainment. This increased social and economic significance of the internet, was coupled with the rising concern around rapid proliferation of fake news and CSAM. This has led to the government considering to regulate these platforms to tackle legitimate national security concerns. However, while imposing reasonable restrictions are important to preserve ‘Rule of Law’, it is also paramount to ensure that such measures do preserve the right to free expression and privacy of the citizens.

Mr. Kazim Rizvi, The Founding Director of The Dialogue observed that the objective of this competition was to involve young minds to develop a quest for critical thinking and public speaking on crucial aspects of public policy and to help them assess the integral aspects of internet freedom, national security and their interaction with the fundamental rights of the people.

The rounds entailed discussion on topics like, regulation of OTT platforms, right to be forgotten and the significance of safe-harbour in preserving online free speech. The students arguing in favour of regulations highlighted the importance of reasonable restrictions to ensure better accountability on part of the platforms in the interest of user safety and national security. On the other hand, those arguing against it discussed the need to encourage free speech and innovation for creating an open, progressive and inclusive online space.

All the jury members praised the participants for their well crafted speech and impressive presentation skills. Mr. Dhanendra Kumar, Senior Bureaucrat and Former Chairman of Competition Commission of India congratulated both the participants as well as The Dialogue and Shaheed Bhagat Singh team for the successful organization of this event. He observed that "while regulations are important to effectively tackle online challenges, however they need to be reasonable and conform with the overarching principles of constitutionalism and rule of law. While online safety is a legitimate goal, protecting the fundamental right to free speech and privacy of the citizens and furthering their freedom of trade and innovation is also crucial, and a balance needs to be struck between the two. I congratulate The Dialogue team for getting the youth of the nation to speak on this very important subject."


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