Facebook allows people worldwide, so long as they have a connection, to speak freely, but sometimes that leads to trouble. To wit, two women from Mumbai, India, were arrested over a Facebook complaint regarding a citywide shutdown.
The city was shut down for over 30 hours after the death of the Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray. No transportation was allowed and businesses had no choice but to close their shops until the shutdown was over.
This lead many to question the whole shutdown and the exact reasoning for it. One woman, Shaheen Dhadha, posted a status update on Facebook saying, “People like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that.” Come Sunday, she was arrested, as well as her friend Renu who simply “liked” the post.
It sounds ridiculous to us, but under Section 505 of the Indian Penal Code, you’re not allowed to make a statement that “creates or promotes enmity, hatred or ill will between classes.” Both women were sentenced to 14 days in jail. However, bond was posted and they received bail.
Pranesh Prakash, who is the program manager for the Center for Internet and Society, made a very good point regarding the situation:
“There were thousands of people on Facebook, Twitter and in person who were saying the exact same kinds of things that this girl is alleged to have said. And the fact that only she and one other person who liked that comment have been arrested shows a clear arbitrariness in the application of the law.”
Quite often though, the police and government want to set an example, and that means some unsuspecting people having to be a part of it. With social media growing and changing so rapidly, one thing that hasn’t changed is laws.
For people to freely use Facebook and other platforms without the fear of being prosecuted, governments around the world need to re-look at their restrictiveness and get with the times.