Platforms, privatized censorship and free speech in India

Role of platforms in mediating online speech

Online platforms, particularly social media, operate as the new ‘public squares’. They play an increasingly critical role in shaping the public sphere and redefining democratic participation, through the enforcement of privatized content censorship, filtration and other forms of content moderation practices.

While it is assumed that platforms operate as ‘neutral intermediaries’, online speech is heavily influenced by the politics of specific platforms, and their institutional and technical rules. The operation of these rules has very real consequences for individuals and communities - defining ‘free’ speech and censorship, differentiating between ‘fake news’ and ‘legitimate’ content, and making online spaces safer and accessible. However, the role of platforms in governing public speech has unfortunately not received much legal attention in India. Legal frameworks must be appropriately framed towards curtailing undemocratic and harmful practices of privatized and opaque content moderation by platforms and their algorithmic systems. However, emerging legal traditions like India’s pending Intermediary Liabiltiy Rules, or the EU’s recent Copyright Directive, entrench the private power of platforms without incorporating meaningful and democratic oversight.

In this talk, speaker Divij Joshi will take the audience through the private practices of speech governance by platforms, and how it affects the freedom of speech, citizenship and democratic participation in India. He will make a case for what kind of legal frameworks can introduce accountability and transparency into the governance of online speech mediated by platforms. In light of new laws and patterns of online governance emerging across the world, Divij hopes to encourage the audience to understand their implications, and contribute to building a more democratic and equitable internet.

Thus.Critique hosts talks of topical interest every Monday.

Participation: Join via Zoom: or watch the livestream on this page and post comments.

Who should participate:

  1. Media and media tech practitioners
  2. Lawyers
  3. Tech policy practitioners
  4. Engineers

About the speaker: Divij Joshi is a lawyer and independent researcher studying the interaction between law, technology and policy. He is presently a Mozilla Technology Policy Fellow, studying automated decision-making systems in India. Divij also edits and contributes to the SpicyIP Blog.

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Credits: Poster design by @palebluedotgoa.

Suggested Readings

Kate Klonick, The New Governers: The People, Rules and Processes Governing Online Speech, Harvard Law Review (

Divij Joshi, Beyond Intermediary Liability: Platform Responsibility for Harmful Speech in India, Digital Policy Portal, (

Divij Joshi, Accountability, Not Curbs on Free Speech, is the Answer to Harmful Content Online, The Wire (




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