Dangerous Speech in Virtual Time l Dec 23 | 6PM

Dangerous Speech in Virtual Time: Social Media, Law and Violence in Contemporary India


Siddharth Narrain

Friday, Dec 23, 6pm

Venue : Alternative Law Forum, #122/4, Infantry Road, Bangalore – 1 (Next to Balaji Art Gallery)

9880595032, 8050005354


Over the last five years, with the increasing popularity of social media in India, accessed extensively through inexpensive mobile phones, a range of actors have emerged to deal with the question of the increasing circulation of ‘excitable speech’, and material that has been linked to public order disturbances. The focus of law and legal regulation has shifted from the content itself, what it says, and the intention of the author, to being able to pre-empt the circulation of such material. Increasingly it is through keywords and algorithmic searches that the category of ‘hate speech’ has been defined rather than traditional legal doctrine.

In the words of Lawrence Lessig, code plays the role of law, and the architecture of the Internet becomes policy.  Further the global reach of intermediaries such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, has meant that there are emerging questions related to how the standards of hate speech and violent content laid down by these companies differ from domestic legal standards, and the multiple negotiations that take place between Internet intermediaries and governments, underlining the complicated and shifting nature of sovereignties, and the blurring of distinctions between private and public that the era of mobile phone enabled internet and social media platforms has inaugurated.

This presentation will explore some of the key issues that have emerged based on interviews I have conducted over the last two years in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and Western Uttar Pradesh.

About the speaker

Siddharth Narrain is a lawyer and Research Associate at the Sarai Programme, Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi. He has worked previously with the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore, and The Hindu Group of Publications, Delhi.

Entry is free and all are welcome.