Here’s a round-up of developments related to the blocking of web sites in India following reports of the North East exodus. We’ll continue updating this post as we come across more instances. You can also report blocks via your comments:
– August 26th, 2012: Is the Indian government caught in the ‘censorship’ web? Read more at NDTV.
– August 26th, 2012: Outlook India editorial chairman Vinod Mehta writes that he supports any measure, including censorship, to stop platforms like Facebook and Twitter from being used to spread terror. He added that its hardly a secret that social media has been misused and has been left untouched in the interests of free speech. Read more at Outlook India.
– August 25th, 2012: The worst job at google? Moderating Internet content. Read more at Gizmodo.
– August 25th, 2012: Tata Photon has apparently blocked access to 25 million WordPress.com blogs across the country, to comply with a government order to block web pages with inflammatory content. Read more at Tech2.
– August 24th, 2012: India is planning to push for formulating Internet regulation and governance at the United Nations, following which the control of Internet companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook would remain in hands of United Nations and its member nations. Read more.
– August 24th, 2012: Sachin Pilot, Minister of State for Communications and Information Technology informed the Rajya Sabha that India’s proposal at United Nations Commission for Science and Technology Development (CSTD) was a reiteration of its statement made during the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly in October 2011. According to this proposal, India has asked CSTD to create an open ended working group to discuss setting up of a Committee for Internet Related Policies (CIRP). Read more.
– August 24th, 2012: Kapil Sibal, Minister for Communication and Information Technology stated that the Indian government is not targeting any individual website or any individual account on social networking websites and it does not intend to put restrictions on genuine users. Read more.
– August 23rd 2012: The ministry of telecommunications indeed directed Internet Service Providers to block 16 Twitter accounts, including those of right-wing entities and leaders, apart from blog posts and hundreds of web-pages featuring user-generated content on websites such as Facebook, Google+ and Youtube. The directives only mention that ‘it had been decided to block these accounts’. The directives don’t quote any sections of the IT Act or any other reason for the blocks.Note that we were not able to access certain Twitter handles on Airtel Broadband in Delhi, earlier in the day. Download the pdfs at The Economic Times (second paragraph, marked 1, 2, 3, 4; we’ve got backups)
– August 24, 2012: Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat and BJP leader, has blackened his Twitter display picture, to protest the Indian government’s selective blocking of the Internet.
As a common man, I join the protest against crackdown on freedom of speech! Have changed my DP. ‘Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan.’
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 24, 2012
– August 24, 2012: The Twitter account of Milind Deora (@milinddeora), India’s Minister of State for Communication and Information Technology has apparently been suspended according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The report however adds that it is currently being verified whether the minister’s Twitter account was a victim of hacking or it was a genuine suspension.
– August 24, 2012: Indian Government has set up a dedicated panel to screen all webpages that intelligence and technical agencies believe should be banned. Read more.
– August 23, 2012: Twitter has sought more time to block 28 accounts which had apparently tweeted out inflammatory content, stating that it was facing technical difficulties to block these accounts. Read more.
– August 23, 2012: Social Samosa has listed down the twitter accounts that were blocked by various ISPs. However, many of them seems to have unblocked at the time of writing the article. Read more.
– August 23, 2012: Indian Government set a 12 hour deadline to the micro blogging giant Twitter to remove 28 pages containing inflammatory pages related to the Assam violence, failing which it will face a temporary ban in the country.Read more
– August 22, 2012: Pranesh Prakash of CIS India has done a initial analysis of the list of blocked sites in the country. According to the analysis, 309 webpages, including specific URLs, blogposts and Twitter accounts, have been blocked till now. Read more.
– August 22, 2012: Kapil Sibal, India’s Minister for Communication and Technology , stated that Indian government should take strict action against companies who are violating the law and stated the need to formulate a law to restrict the social media abuse. Read more
– August 22, 2012: 20% of the inflammatory pages banned by the government were uploaded by Hindu fundamentalists, according to a report by The Times Of India. Security agencies have also reportedly found clues that these fundamentalists were behind generating a large amount of SMSs that created panic among the north eastern citizens.Read more.
– On August 22, 2012, the US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland in a conference said that the US is not part of the Indian investigation that is looking into doctored images and videos being uploaded on the internet by elements in Pakistan to create social unrest in the country. Read more.
– On August 22, 2012, an article in Indian Express mentions a YouTube video being blocked during mumbai riots. While the video was blocked on YouTube, that is, no one could access the video URL, the link to the video kept circulating on social networking site Twitter. The article mentions how Twitter transforms from social media into political-info media. Read more.
– August 22, 2012: The Government of India had asked Twitter to shut down parody account of Prime Minister in June, however, Twitter failed to comply to the report. GoI has since then turned to DoT to block the URLs. Read more.
– August 22, 2012: Three men were held in Bangalore for allegedly sending out more than 20,000 SMS’ using multiple SIM cards and cellphones. However, police officials are still in look out for the fourth offender which might reveal if these hate messages had any greater motives. Read more.
– August 22, 2012, 9:00hrs: The government ordered blocking 66 more web pages or URLs (universal resource locaters) containing communal hate campaign directed towards northeast people, according to a report by DNA.
– August 21, 2012: Acccording to an article from NYTimes, Officials is New Delhi think that the sites are not responding quickly enough to their requests to delete and trace the origins of doctored photos and incendiary posts aimed at people from northeastern India. Read more.
– August 21, 2012: DNA reported that India sought help from the United States and Saudi Arabia to track down the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of the webpages where morphed images and videos were uploaded to create social unrest in the country.
– August 21, 2012: According to a department of telecom (DoT) official, if there is no firm response from Twitter, the Indian government will do whatever is necessary in order to “address the problem. Twitter has historically failed to comply with Indian Governments’ requests partly because it does not have an office in India. Read more.
– August 21, 2012: Internet companies Google and Facebook said they are working with Indian authorities to remove “inflammatory and hateful content” on their websites. Read more.
– August 21, 2012: The Indian government has admitted to have blocked 245 web pages with inflammatory and hateful content, following the exodus of a large number of people belonging to the North Eastern ethnic community from cities like Bangalore and Pune, among others. Read more (MediaNama filed an RTI request following the order to block 245 websites, and the orders to ban SMS).
– August 19, 2012: Ministers blamed groups in Pakistan, a neighbor with which India has tense relations, for creating and uploading many of the hateful pages and doctored images. Read More.
– August 17, 2012: The Ministry of Home affairs had banned bulk SMS and MMS for a period of 15 days. Read more. This is not the first instance where government banned bulk SMS to avoid spreading panic. In 2010, the Indian government had issued a ban on Bulk SMS and MMS services for 72 hours for preventing a widespread panic and mob uprising prior to the verdict on the Babri Masjid land issue in Ayodhya, from the Allahabad High Court.
Opinions on the ban
August 23, 2012: IBNLive.com lists the most sarcastic tweets on Government blocking twitter accounts with the help of ISPs. #GOIBlocks trends on Twitter. Read more.
August 23, 2012: Shashi Tharoor, a Member of Parliament, in a column in The Hindu said that the key to cyber space should never be given to those who would place a lock on it. It should be held by the larger moral force of society. Read his column.
Finally Indian Express confirms what I was doubting all along. Not more than 1/5th of banned websites had reference to Assam
— Kunāl Majumder (@kunalmajumder) August 22, 2012
The govt of India used the issue of Assam to show how ignorant it is abt internet especially social media.
— Kunāl Majumder (@kunalmajumder) August 22, 2012
1 million innocents murdered in partition of India mostly provoked by rumors etc.Where was Twitter n Facebook then?
— Shekhar Kapur (@shekharkapur) August 22, 2012
Being on Social Media makes a Leader more intimate n accessible but open2 immediate criticism. But isn’t that what democracy is abt? — Shekhar Kapur (@shekharkapur) August 22, 2012
Seeing reports of Indian Twitter journos & user’s profiles being blocked by some Indian ISPs. Blocking seems uncoordinated & random.
— Mahendra Palsule (@ScepticGeek) August 23, 2012
Internet Censorship in India
– On August 23, 2012, Indian Government set a 12 hour deadline to the micro blogging giant Twitter to remove 28 pages containing inflammatory pages related to the Assam violence, failing which it will face a temporary ban in the country. Read more
– On August 22, 2012, Several ISPs blocked access to Twitter accounts of some journalists including @barbarindian @kanchangupta @aparanjape @dosabandit @shivaroor. However, the ban seems to be partially revoked after a few hours. [hat tip – @nikhilnarayanan | screenshot 1, screenshot 2]
– On August 22, 2012, Indian Government directed ISPs to block parody accounts of the Prime Minister on Twitter including @PM0India (O replaced with a zero), @Indian_pm and @PMOIndiaa. Apart from that, Bharti Airtel had blocked Google owned YouTube’s short URL Youtu.be, however, that block was lifted with-in three hours. Read more.
– On August 21, 2012, Indian Government asked ISP’s to block 245 webpages with inflammatory and hateful content, following the exodus of a large number of people belonging to the North Eastern ethnic community from cities like Bangalore and Pune, among others. Read more.
– On May 17, 2012, Airtel, Reliance and other ISPs blocked sites such as video sharing sites Vimeo and DailyMotion, torrents sites like thepiratebay, text and code sharing platform Pastebin, and bookmarks sharing site Xmarks. However, the block was imposed following a John Doe order taken by Copyright Labs, Chennai, from the Madras High Court, for preventing piracy of Tamil Films Dammu and 3. Read more.
– In March 2012, the Indian music industry, an industry consortium of 142 music ompanies, had obtained orders from the Calcutta High Court directing all Internet Service Providers (387 ISPs) to block 104 music sites (listed here).
– In December 2011, Google for the first time revealed its Transparency Report for January to June 2011. The Internet search giant received requests from the Indian government – which seems to include State and Central governments, police and courts – to remove 358 items out of which 255 items were classified as government criticism. Read more.
– In July 2011, several ISPs including Airtel had blocked access to file sharing sites Mediafire.com, Megaupload.com, Rapidshare.com, Sendspace.com, Megavideo.com, VideoBB.com, Novamov.com, Movshare.com, Putlocker.com, Hotfile.com, Fileserve.com, Filesonic.com, Filesonic.in, Depositfiles.com, Wupload.com, Uploaded.to, and Uploadstation.com. Initially, the reason for the block was suggested as an order from the Department of Telecommunication (DoT), however it was later revealed that the block was instituted because of a John Doe order from the Delhi High Court, allowing Reliance Big Pictures to prevent piracy of its movie Singham.
– On March 4, 2011, Internet service providers like Airtel, Reliance (Netconnect), BSNL, MTNL, Fivenet Broadband (Mumbai) had blocked sites such as Typepad.com, Mobango.com, Clickatell.com, and Blogspot.com by orders from DoT. The reason for the ban could not be made known then.
– In June 2009, the Department of Telecom had asked all Internet Service Providers to block toon-porn site Savitabhabhi.com which raised concerns over the IT Act that gives the government absolute powers to block any website without a hearing or assigning any reasons. Read more.
– In 2007, the government had an agreement with Orkut, then a popular social networking site, to take down several allegedly “defamatory” pages including one about Bal Thackeray. Read more.
– In July 2006, the Indian Government blocked blogging sites such as blogspot.com, typepad.com, blogs.com, and geocities.com following the Mumbai Train Blasts. Apparently, the government suspected that the terrorist group used blogs as a communication tool for coordinating the attacks. A right to information (RTI) application revealed that 26-odd websites had been blocked. Read more.