Ten international non-profit organisations have appealed to the Indian government and tech firms operating in India to cease censorship and surveillance targeting critics online in response to the ongoing farmer's protest.
In a joint statement, the non-profit organisations said that tech companies have immense power and must ensure free speech and privacy by pushing back on government's orders that infringe on rights, reported The Economic Times.
Companies, including social media platforms, have a responsibility to respect human rights independent of a government's willingness to fulfil its human rights obligations, the non-profit organisations said.
"To curb the flow of information or to harm people's ability to freely assemble and express political views, broad and indiscriminate shutdowns should not be used by the officials," they added.
The ten non-profits organisations, who collectively issused statement include-Reporters Without Borders, Association for Progressive Communications, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Derechos Digitales, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mnemonic, Access Now, Article 19, WITNESS and Human Rights Watch.
An overview of the toolkit case has been given in the open letter for which a 22-year old activist, Disha Ravi, was arrested under the charge of sedition.
The non-profits also said that the government's clampdown on the young activist, and demanding user information from digital companies like Zoom, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram violates the ideals of online freedom and other forms of speech.
"What we are witnessing in India, however, is the manipulation and censorship of online spaces stemming from short-sighted regulation aimed at tech giants," Eliška Pírková, a Global Content Governance Lead at Access Now said.
The open letter also highlighted the efforts that are being made by the Indian government to shut down internet at the protest sites, stop journalists from entering the sites, filing arbitrary criminal and sedition charges against reporters, pressing social media companies to censor critical content.
The letter also focused on issuing the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules of 2021, which, as per the groups allow greater governmental control over online content, would seriously undermine rights to privacy and freedom of expression online.