Abraham worries that what is really happening is a government effort at Internet "behavior modification" through a process akin to an experiment involving caged monkeys, bananas, and ice water. Put four monkeys in a cage and hang a bunch of bananas on the ceiling. Every time one of them climbs up to reach the bananas, you drench all of them with ice water. Soon enough, the monkeys will start policing themselves -- attacking anybody who tries to reach the bananas, making it unnecessary for their masters to deploy the ice water. "This is why the government is being so aggressive so early on, with only 10 percent of India's population online," says Abraham. "If you start the drenching early on, by the time you get to 50 percent [Internet penetration], every one will be well-behaved monkeys." Companies will act as private Internet police for fear of legal punishment before the government is called upon to step in and enforce the law. If it works, Indian politicians could have fewer reasons to worry about online critiques or mockery, because companies fearing prosecution will proactively delete speech that could potentially be designated "harassing" or "grossly harmful."
India is not China or Iran, however. Its politicians may be corrupt, and most of its voters may not understand why Internet freedom matters because they've never used the Internet. But it still has an independent press and boisterous civil society that are not going to give up their critiques and protests anytime soon. India also has a strong, independent judiciary, with a record of ruling against censorship and surveillance measures when a strong case can be made that they conflict with constitutional protections of individual rights. "On free speech I have high faith in the Indian judiciary," says Abraham. "There is a good chance to launch a constitutional challenge."
If Google and Facebook lose at their impending trial -- now scheduled for July -- they will most certainly appeal, which activists hope could provide just such an opportunity to prevent the sort of "behavior modification" process that Abraham warns against. Now India's burgeoning Internet freedom movement needs its own reverse "behavior modification" strategy -- imposing consistent and regular doses of political and legal ice water upon India's bureaucrats, politicians, and companies whenever they do things that threaten to corrode the rights of India's Internet users. Saturday's protest is just the beginning.