Govt Blocked 2341 URLs In 2014, 73% More Than 2013 Reveals RTI
The Government of India instructed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block 2341 URLs in 2014, which is an increase of 73% compared to 2013 when 1374 URLs were instructed to be blocked.
Comparably, only 32 URLs were unblocked in 2014, which is lot better than 2013 when none of the URLs were unblocked.
These facts came out via Right to Information (RTI) petition filed by a legal services organization called Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC) having headquarters in New Delhi and presence all over the country.
SFLC had asked lot more information from Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DEITY) in the RTI filing, such as details of the URLs blocked, on which grounds were the URLs blocked, requests from private entities regarding URL blocks and more.
However, taking shield of Rule 16 of IT Act, DEITY decided to reveal only the numbers.
As per the reply sent in by DEITY, it was stated that “Further as per the provision of Rules 16 of the of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009 notified under section 69A of the Information Technology Act 2000, the request and complains received and actions taken thereof are strictly confidential.”
Here is the snapshot of RTI
Another interesting information emerged from the reply provided by the Government: DEITY can ask ISPs to block any URL based on the request sent in by Nodal Officer or Chief Secretary of State or Advisor to Administrator for Union Territories or through orders from an Indian Court.
Reacting to this confidentiality, SFLC stated in their blog: “Rule 16, by mandating strict confidentiality in URL-blocking, shrouds India’s content-blocking regime in extreme secrecy”
In a recent ruling by Supreme Court, where it termed Section 66A as “unconstitutional”, the court had informed that all orders pertaining to URL blockings should be written and saved for further counter-challenged under Article 226 of IPC.
Actions of URL blocking by Government of India is smeared with controversy and secrecy, which is preventing complete Internet freedom which all citizens demand. In 2013, Govt. enforced a blanket ban on more than 30 porn websites and forums. If we observe only Facebook posts, then between July to December 2013, Government of India blocked more than 4700 pieces of content, as per Facebook’s transparency report.
Again in November 2014, Government issued directives to telecom firms to block access to porn websites after blocking 219 popular torrent and hosting websites in July of 2014. Last month, Govt. had blocked a BBC documentary on Nirbhaya rape case.
Why is the all-powerful Government scared of websites and content published on the Internet? And why the details of the blocks not shared? In the ruling of Section 66A, Supreme Court made it clear that only that content which “create communal disturbance, social disorder or affect India’s relationship with other countries should be blocked.”
We certainly need more transparency and more information on the blocking protocols of our Government.