Indian State Outlaws "Objectionable Content," Will Start Arresting People for Precrime

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Karnataka, a state in South West India, recently issued a warning to its inhabitants, which read:

Citizens are warned not to upload, modify, resend (forward) and like (share) malicious or misleading images, videos and messages through any medium with a view to hurt religious sentiments knowingly or unknowingly. Such persons will be punished under sections 66(A) of the Information Technology Act and 153 (A) of the Indian Penal Code.

Last week, the legislature passed a bill called The Karnataka Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug-offenders, Gamblers, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Slum-Grabbers and Video or Audio Pirates (Amendment), which allows authorities to arrest people for violating the IT act if they are even suspected of planning on violating the act.

Via the website Medianama: 

This Act was originally meant to enable authorities to take bootleggers, drug offenders and traffickers into preventive custody. Post the amendment digital offenders can also be arrested without actually having committed any crime. So, effectively even if you are planning to forward an ‘objectionable’ meme on WhatsApp or forward a copyright protected e-book to a friend you can be arrested under this Act. 

The law, colloquially called The Goonda Law ("goonda" being a slang term for "thug"), was originally designed to stop bootleggers and drug dealers, but the new bill adds the impossibly vague "digital offenders." Punishments can include up to a year in prison for violators, or would be violators, since one doesn't actually have to do anything to be arrested.

The act has come under understandably harsh criticism, but it doesn't look like there are any plans to repeal. The Bangalore Mirror quotes Advocate Shyam Sundar as saying it will likely lead to corruption, because what constitutes malicious or misleading videos is incredibly broad, and you don't actually have to have done anything to be arrested. "The public will not feel safe due to this draconian legislation," says Sundar. "Those who enforce the Goonda Act, however, will become richer through corruption, thanks to the fear created by these new amendments."

(h/t Techdirt)