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India curbs on Bloggers and Internet

by Prasad Krishna last modified May 13, 2011 11:59 AM
The Information Technology Rules 2011 (due diligence observed by intermediaries guidelines) by the Indian government could lead to online censorship, feel human rights activists. This article by Ayyappa Prasad was published in TruthDrive on April 29, 2011.

"This will curtail the freedom of expression of individual bloggers, because as an intermediary they will become responsible for the readers’ comments. It technically means that any comment or a reader-posted link on a blog which according to the government is threatening, abusive, objectionable, defamatory, vulgar, racial, among other omnibus categories, will now be considered as the legal responsibility of the blogger," said a blogger.

Blogs, which are typically maintained and updated by individuals, have showcased their political importance in recent times and the internet community views these rules as a lopsided attempt to curtail an individual’s right to expression.

"If individual blogs are an intermediary, then why can’t Facebook and Twitter also be classified as such, as they too receive, store and transmit electronic records and facilitate online discussions," retorts the spokesperson of the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), a Bangalore-based organization, which works on digital pluralism. " These rules will not only bring bloggers and the ISP provider on the same platform, but the due diligence clause will also result in higher power of censorship to the larger player. Imagine your ISP provider blocking your blog because it finds that certain user-comments fit these omnibus terms," the CIS spokesperson added.

Intermediaries include web-hosting providers, which would include companies like Amazon, cyber cafes, payment sites like Paypal, online auction sites, ISPs like BSNL, Airtel, etc. Blogs also fall in this category as networked service providers. The due diligence specifies intermediaries should not display, upload, modify or publish any information that is 'harmful' , 'threatening' , 'abusive' , 'harassing' , 'blasphemous' , 'objectionable' , 'defamatory' , 'vulgar' , 'obscene' , 'pornographic' , 'paedophilic' , 'libellous' , 'invasive of another’s privacy' , 'hateful' , 'disparaging' , 'racially , ethnically or otherwise objectionable' , 'relating to money laundering or gambling'.

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