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Bloggers beware–Indian Govt moving towards online censorship!

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According to some latest statistics around 770 million people in the country have access to a mobile. Around 1/10th of them have access to the Internet. This shows that Internet penetration is still very low in this country. But there is an increasing penetration of social networking sites (around 80% of Internet population) and other ways by which people can contribute to the growing information age. This has suddenly given rise to hacking attacks, growth of hackers, malware, cyber crimes etc.

In this situation, the government has recently published amendments / updates to the IT Rules Act. And the rules stated there make me wonder if we are slowly moving towards the Chinese way. Though there are a lot of rules which I wouldn’t talk about, the most important and influencing one is regarding the bloggers and Internet service providers.

The Internet Service providers (ISPs) are supposed to direct the bloggers and the general public on what kind of content can or cannot be published on Internet,  be it photo or textual matter. In case if the terms and conditions are not followed, the intermediaries have the right to block the user from access.

mobango ban

Interestingly the rules are really vague which shows from the government using words like obscenity, harmful to minors etc (Check out this post on Medianama, which analyse some important points ). Whether something is harmful or obscene may differ from person to person. And here is where the vagueness comes in. Moreover the intermediaries have to ensure that the content is being efficiently managed without being compromised, failing which they are liable to be punished for non – compliance.

They also need to give the government easier access for general information. All these rules and liabilities for various intermediaries have been fixed on the basis of the fact that all sites are the same. So a user generated content site like Wikipedia is same as Times of India.

What is the government trying to do? Why is bossing around the Internet world like the Chinese regime? Aren’t we the ones who should have the right on what to see and say (aka read & write) on the Internet? Are rules and regulations like these the right thing in a democracy like ours?

With measures like the Internet kill switch, the Central Monitoring System and the recent banning of of typepad, mobango, clickatell (I got the ban message shown above when I visited mobango.com & clickatell.com) & others, one’s getting the idea that the government is in this for the long term. But then the rules of their game seem so vague that you wonder at the futility of the entire exercise.

The rules define a blogger only as a user when he / she has user generated content in the form of comments. Even the reasons for which one can be blocked are so vague that nearly 90 percent of all sites on internet can get banned (like on trak.in, everyday we get comments all the time which can be termed obscene, hateful, abusive etc…)

As someone said it rightly, since the government can’t control the content on the Internet, they instead are planning on controlling the Internet Service providers!

Do you think online censorship in India is the right thing?

Important IT Act documents

  • Notification under IT(Amendment) Act, 2008
  • IT (Amendment) Act 2008
  • IT Act 2000
  • Rules for the Information Technology Act 2000
  • Report of the Expert Committee on Amendments to IT Act 2000
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  3. Pradyumnacster says

    You are right. ultimately, users should have a say on what is ‘harmful’. Its sad to know that Indian govt is joining the same bandwagon as other countries like china and Malayasia.
    @ashish: I second you. Freedom of expression is guaranteed as a right by our constitution.

  4. ashish says

    Such actions will penetrate illegal uses or force people to use other means for expressin..

  5. sam says

    this is not gone to work. it is matter of time till some one file a case in court and kick on govt. a** . we agree that protection of integrity of india is must but it didnot mean that citizen didn’t have any right’s

  6. varun bhargava says

    this is a starting phase of “death of democracy”?
    it give sense the “jasmine revolution”? is the reason or what?
    you know very well about policy,planning & implemention of indian govt?
    right ,,technically its not possible in india yet?
    so do not worry & wait for the UID to get clearly implemented?

  7. Rohit says

    Policy wise they can block
    but can they block it technically :)

  8. Indiran says

    It may be useful, but not required. Since, in our democracy, it cannot be implemented it in a right manner.

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