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Internet Censorship In India
12-09-2011, 12:30 PM,
Information  Internet Censorship In India
We've covered the censorship issue from a lot of different angles. The Kill Switch, China, Australia, Facebook, Google, BitTorrent, ACTA and even Alternatives to the Internet... There have been gaps in being completely thorough though, notably that the Indian government can ban any website at will.

Quote:Internet Censorship In India - A Dialog

Kapil Sibal’s attempt to pressurize the social networking sites to screen user content got much criticism from different circles. If you think the Internet is a free medium of expression in India, you are wrong. Web censorship has existed in India for as long as one full decade (as on 8th Dec 2011). The era of Internet Censorship in India begun in the year 2000 (July 2000 to be specific). Read on to find out the details of web censorship in this country.

The Basis For Web Censorship In India

Facebook Censored

The bill for Internet Censorship was created by the Indian Parliament in the summer session of year 2000. Known as the Information Technology Act, it aimed to provide a legal framework to regulate Internet use and commerce, including digital signatures, security, and hacking. The act criminalizes publishing of obscene information electronically and grants police powers to search any premises without a warrant and arrest individuals in violation of the act.

In 2003, an organization named Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) came into being, under the IT Act 2000. A list was created as to who could raise concerns about online content. This list contains certain individuals in the government sector thereby limiting the power to raise objections on Internet content available in India. The work of CERT was to issue examine such objections and issue BLOCK notices.

Another basis for filtering was demonstrated with the blocking of the site on April 28, 2004, reportedly ordered by the Mumbai police on the grounds that it contained anti-Islamic inflammatory material. Police commissioners, who can exercise the powers of executive magistrates in times of emergency, can block Web sites containing material constituting a nuisance or threat to public safety under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Filtering can also be mandated through licensing requirements. ISPs seeking licenses to provide Internet services with the DOT “shall block Internet sites and/or individual subscribers, as identified and directed by the Telecom Authority from time to time” in the interests of “national security”.

Using Orkut Can Be Dangerous!

In 2006, filtering requests were also generated by individuals protesting content they considered offensive or obscene. On October 10, 2006, the Bombay High Court directed Maharashtra government to issue notice to Google for “alleged spread of hatred about India” on its social networking site Orkut, in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition calling for the ban of Orkut for hosting a “We Hate India” community.

A month later, in response to protests over an “anti-Shivaji” community on Orkut, Pune police banned Orkut and temporarily shut down cybercafés where users were found to be using the site. These kind of filtering and bans were made possible via local blocking of the sites by the Internet Service Providers (ISP).

Both above paragraphs show how vulnerable the ISPs are when it comes to Internet censorship in India. Since they have to run their business using the government license, they have to oblige to censorship demands of government machinery.

For more details, read the chapter XI (Offences) and XIII (Miscellaneous) of the Information Technology Act 2000.

People On Web Censorship in India

Though not a very reliable source, Wikia has some instances of Internet Censorship carried forward by the Indian Government using the above technique of asking ISPs to block IP addresses. Check out the Internet Censorship section of the wiki. According to it, some 17 blogs on TypePad, WordPress and GeoCities were banned by the Indian government. As the ISPs could not block the subdomains, they blocked the entire websites.

Banner From Bloggers Against Censorship

Bloggers Against Censorship was the outcome of that move. The organization came up and started revolting against the web censorship. “There are many questions raised by these apparent acts of Internet Censorship. This effort is aimed at nothing less than ensuring the Government will never again do something like this. There should be no site or group of sites that they will ever again be able to block; in fact, there should be no book they will ban, no infringement on freedoms at all ever again. It is against our constitutional Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression as an Indian Citizen,” quotes Bloggers Against Censorship.

Rajesh Chharia (president of India’s Internet Service Providers Association) commented: “India is more sensitive than other countries. Some amount of check and balance is required. But to pre-screen all material is an uphill task and may not be practically applicable.”

Gulshan Rai, head of the Indian Cyber Emergency Response Teams (CERT-In) claims it is possible to pre-screen the contents. “The companies can design filters to check that any objectionable content cannot make its way to the websites.'”

[Image: kapil_sibal.jpg]
An image at Digital Inspirations shows peoples’ reaction to Kapil Sibal’s attempts.

CJ News India calls the Information Technology Act “illegal” and “unconstitutional”, while quoting a case where Yahoo dragged Indian govt to court as the latter was asking details of over a dozen people under the clause of national security.

Despite all this, the Indian government declines Internet censorship saying they are not blocking the freedom of speech but trying to control certain elements that may cause discomfort and unrest among people.
There are no others, there is only us.

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