On August 21, 2012, the 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. Here’s a round up of opinions on Internet Freedom. We will continue updating this post as we come across more such opinions.
– August 31, 2012: The Supreme Court today refused to hear a plea challenging the decision of the Centre and the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block some websites to prevent piracy of commercial content. The petitioner, Jiten Kumar Jain, has been directed to approach the Delhi High Court. Read more.
August 29, 2012: Software Freedom Law Center talks about Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 that provides the Central Government, the power to block access by the public of any information, to maintain public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offense amongst other things. It also points out that any such direction for blocking can only be given by the Secretary, Department of Information Technology, on a recommendation made by a Designated officer in an emergent situation. However, it points out that the communications for the recent ban on social networking sites were signed by a Director (DS-II)of the Department of Telecommunications and not a Joint Secretary.
It also states that various Civil Society organizations including Sflc.in have been trying to help GoI, DIT in particular, in making responsible policies with respect to Intermediary Liability Rules. Read more.
August 27, 2012: An article by Dr. Bob Hoekstra, former CEO of Philips, points out that Google honored 29% of Indian Government’s requests in second half 2011, and considered 71% inappropriate. It’s interesting to note that he points out that the transparency of Indian Government is not clear. Read more.
August 25, 2012: DNA talks about how the Government of India by using Section 69 (a) to block sites and URLs, ended up breaking the law. It also points out that much of this would not have happened if the government had a clear policy. What’s interesting is that the report claims that multiple intelligence and cyber-monitoring agencies — IB, R&AW, DRDO, CERT-In (Computer Emergency Response Team-India) — worked in isolation while senior officials in the Union home ministry sat clueless about the way social media networks work.
For example, the NTRO, which is equipped with web-crawling software and Bots and is in charge of using internet monitoring software Vishwaroop, developed by a private firm in Bangalore was kept out of the loop till the crisis spun out of control.
The report claims that between August 18 and 21, the ministry asked private telecom companies, through letters, to indiscriminately block sites and links. Read More.
August 24, 2012: The US State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland had urged Government of India to ensure internet freedom while seeking to preserve national security, as the Indian government asked social networking websites to check pages carrying inflammatory messages. Read more.