Individual Liberty vs Public Security in a Radically Networked Society

By Nitin Pai and Pranay Kotasthane

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The debate of liberty versus security gains special significance in India with the emergence of Radically Networked Societies (RNSs). A Radically Networked Society is defined as a web of hyper connected individuals, possessing an identity (imagined or real), and motivated by a common immediate cause. The defining feature of an RNS is its scale of operation — wide reach and its ability to evade conventional national security measures.

In the past few years, RNSs have mobilised large groups using the power of the Internet. Some examples include: the flight of Northeast Indians from Bengaluru following circulation of videos over phones that allegedly showed Muslim people being killed in Northeast India, and the lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri following the circulation of three photos of meat and bones of a slaughtered animal via WhatsApp.

Several questions arise as a result. First, how should the hierarchical Indian state respond to the challenges of a networked society? Second, how can the Indian state respond to this challenge in a way that upholds national security while also protecting individual freedoms? Third, what will be the exact nature of the trade-off between liberty and security in an age of radically networked societies? This paper will attempt to answer these important questions of liberty and security in the Indian context.

Individual Liberty vs Public Security in a RNS

Download the book chapter in PDF [214 KB]