The recent vandalization of some cyber cafés in Mumbai byShiv Sainiks is the latest example of the tension between new-age free speech and old-style moral policing. The storm troopers in Mumbai were angry that there were critical comments against their leader on Orkut, the social networking site.
YouTube was banned in Thailand because it carried a video that made fun of the Thai king. Earlier, a video making fun of Mahatma Gandhi made YouTube a villain in the eyes of many Indians. In April, a cyber riot that involved a Russian attack on Estonian websites almost led to the crash of the Internet in the small Baltic nation.
While being aware of its misuse by hate groups, paedophiles and terrorists, there is no doubt that the Internet is a great tool to promote free speech. Global rules for censorship will evolve. Till then, it needs protection against self-appointed guardians of public morality.