Update: On August 30, 2012, the Press Trust Of India has reported that the Home Minister has withdrawn the ban on bulk SMSes and MMSes with immediate effect.
Ban on bulk SMSes and MMSes withdrawn with immediate effect: Home Ministry.
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) August 30, 2012
Update: The Indian Government has revised its directive to limit bulk SMS. It has now increased the daily limit of 5 SMS per SIM to 20 SMS per day per SIM. The new rule has come into effect starting 23rd August 23, 2012. The news was first reported by Telecomtalk.
Earlier: The Ministry of Home affairs has banned bulk SMS and MMS for a period of 15 days, starting today, reports PTI. As per the report, users will not be able to send more than five SMSs and MMSs above 20kb at one go, following the directive.
The directive comes after reports of rumours being spread following violence in Assam, leading to mass exodus of people from the North-East region, from Bangalore, Pune and other cities.
The Union Home Secretary, RK Singh confirmed the development to PTI. The Ministry has advised the Department of Telecommunications to enforce the order through the telecom operators.
This isn’t the first instance of Bulk SMS being banned for political or security reasons - previously, India’s Election Commission had banned Bulk SMS in Andhra Pradesh, on account of the Assembly bypolls in the state. In October 2010, Bulk SMS was banned from 22nd September to 4th of October 2010, due to the High Court’s Ayodhya verdict. At that time, it was to prevent the potential instigation of mob violence. We’re not sure if the ban would also affect server to phone messages. Note that social networks and messaging services use SMS as a bearer to offer updates to users.
Is This The Right Approach?
Although, it’s easy to enforce a ban and control SMSs, what about data based messaging services like WhatsApp and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM)? Their reach is limited compared to SMS, but they also allow convenient bulk messaging. We’re not sure if this will address the problem.
Earlier in the day, some members of Parliament also suggested that the government should control social media sites as they’re being used to spread rumours. Previously, Maharashtra Home Minister, RR Patil, and Samajwadi Party MP Ramgopal Yadav, had requested the government to shutdown social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter for a few days to prevent the spread of rumours, according to a report by OneIndia. We feel that the government should use use social media and mass media to spread awareness and dismiss rumours, instead of putting curbs on them.