censorship

‘WhatsApp news groups’ in Jammu and Kashmir should be registered with the District Social Media Center in the next 10 days the state government has ordered in response to violence in the region, reports CatchNews. It’s not clear how the state machinery plans to differentiate between ‘news groups’ and informal WhatsApp groups created by users.

The circular by the government further mentions that group admins of each group will be responsible for all the posts on their group and for “any irresponsible remarks/deals leading to untoward incidents”. The government will take actions against admins of groups that do not comply, although what action will be taken is not clear. The circular:

jandkcircular

Note that the state government had already shut down mobile internet in some parts of Kashmir last week. Affected areas included Srinagar, Kupwara, Baramulla, Bandipora and Ganderbal districts.

In September 2015, Jammu and Kashmir had suspended Internet services for two days following apprehensions of violence in the state in light of the beef ban in the state. The government had issued a notification asking all internet service providers to close 3G, 2G, GPRS, lease line and broadband services on September 25 and 26 to keep things under control.

Plan for censored news: In February, the Indian government stated plans to set up a media cell to track content online, and ‘counter’ news and comments which are negative or provocative in its opinion. The National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) had proposed to create a National Media Analytics Centre (NMAC) to monitor and analyse blogs, web portals of TV channels and newspapers and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube etc.

Also readAn overview of India’s cyber security agencies

SC upholds states’ right to ban mobile internet: The same month, the Supreme Court of India upheld the districts and states’ right to ban mobile Internet services to maintain law and order. This was challenged in court by student-activist Gaurav Sureshbhai Vyas and represented by lawyer Apar Gupta. A bench dismissed the appeal saying “it becomes very necessary sometimes for law and order.” Gupta argued that a blanket ban on Internet services was not justified.

Previous internet blocks:

– Yesterday mobile Internet services were blocked in multiple districts in Gujarat and in the industrial town of Bokaro in Jharkhand.

– In February, Gujarat had shut down mobile Internet services for four hours to prevent cheating on phones during Revenue Accountants Recruitment Exam.

– In the same month, state authorities in Haryana blocked mobile internet in certain districts after the Jat community’s protest asking for reservations turned violent. Affected districts included Rohtak, Sonipat and Jhajjar.

– In December 2015, the Rajasthan police banned the usage of mobile internet for an indefinite period following communal clashes in the districts of Nagaur, Dungarpur, Udaipur, Bhilwara and other parts of the state. This was implemented to ensure that social networking apps and websites do not disturb the communal harmony in the state.

– In September 2015, internet access and SMSes were cut off in the north-eastern state of Manipur following violent protests which left eight people dead.

– In the same month, internet services were suspended in Surat in Gujarat to curb the spread of rumours amid the agitation by the Patel community. This was the second time Internet services were suspended in Gujarat. A month before that, Godhra in Gujarat was cut off from Internet services for a week due to political agitations by the Patel community demanding reservations.

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Our internet blocks coverage here, censorship coverage here and policy coverage here.

Also read:

HTTP 451 error code now the standard for legally blocked content

Image Credit:  Carolyn Tiry under CC BY SA 2.0