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Blocked websites: Where India flawed

by Prasad Krishna last modified Aug 27, 2012 03:00 AM
Apart from not giving 48 hours response time, the Indian government has blocked some websites which don't exist or don't have web addresses, says an analyst.

Published in CIOL on August 23, 2012. Pranesh Prakash's analysis is quoted.


India is threatening to block Twitter as the latter has allegedly failed to respond to the government's order to remove some inflammatory posts.

That has come to light as it is being widely covered in media, but there are hundreds of websites which have already been shut, apparently without due notice to the owners.

Apart from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, the blocked websites include which are sympathetic to Hindu and Muslim radical groups.

In an analysis of 309 websites blocked in the wake of exodus of North eastern people from Bangalore, Pranesh Prakash of the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), says the government has blocked these sites under the Information Technology Act, but it failed to provide the mandatory 48 hours to respond (under Rule 8 of the Information Technology Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public, Rules 2009).

He writes in his post: "The persons and intermediaries hosting the content should have been notified. Even if the emergency provision (Rule 9) was used, the block issued on August 18, 2012, should have been introduced before the "Committee for Examination of Request" by August 20, 2012 (within 48 hours), and that committee should have notified the persons and intermediaries hosting the content.

Internet censorship is acceptable as long as it is in the purview of the law and doesn't encroach one's freedom. In this case, some people and posts debunking rumours have been blocked, says Pranesh.

He points to some discrepancies in the way the websites are blocked:

  1. Some of the items are not even web addresses (e.g., a few HTML img tags were included). Some of the items they have tried to block do not even exist (e.g., one of the Wikipedia URLs).
  2. An entire domain was blocked on Sunday, and a single post on that domain was blocked on Monday.
  3. For some YouTube videos, the 'base' URL of YouTube videos is blocked, but for other the URL with various parameters (like the "&related=" parameter) is blocked. That means that even nominally 'blocked' videos will be freely accessible.

He concludes: "All in all, it is clear that the list was not compiled with sufficient care."

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