The Department of Telecommunications in India has sent a notice to ISPs operating in the country to block around 18 websites. The DoT will not release the names of the websites, although users in India have already figured out that sites such as Blogger, Typepad, Dalitstan.org, Clickatell.com, Hinduunity.com, Hinduhumanrights.org, and more are amongst those rendered inaccessible.
The government alleges that the sites that were requested to be blocked all spread extremist views. However, instead of blocking only the blogs that the government has found to be offensive or problematic, they’ve gone ahead and blocked all blogs – angering many throughout the country.
The ordered banning of these websites was issued on June 13, and more ISP can expect to receive notices soon. The Government alleges these blogsites were fuelling hatred and communalism.
The government has assured the people, however, that they are not attempting to censor free speech. The request to block the sites follows the deadly Mumbai serial blasts which killed 200 people, and marks the first time that the government has ordered the blocking of such a large number of sites.
Under the Information Technology Act, 2000, an entity called the Computer Emergency Response Team, or CERT-IN, was created. Its main task is in the domain of Internet security, but it also oversees Internet censorship under a clause that seeks to ensure â€˜balanced flow of information.â€™ Any government department seeking a block on any web site has to approach CERT-IN, which then instructs the DoT to block the site after confirming the authenticity of the complaint. Web sites can be blocked if they contain pornography, speeches of hate, contempt, slander or defamation, or if they promote gambling, racism, violence or terrorism.
Bloggers are hopping mad, and are uniting in an attempt to get a list of the blocked sites released. The Indian Government, however, doesn’t yet seem to realize that they have effectively blocked not just 18 websites, but thousands of blogs, as a Hindustan report makes evident:
“Officials defended the decision saying, ‘We would like those people to come forward who access these (the 12) radical websites and please explain to us what are they missing from their lives in the absence of these sites.'”
Those looking for ways around the ban, may wish to consult this website put together by Indian technology blogger Amit Agarwal who has made a list of ways to get around the blocks (but good luck accessing it if you’re in India because its a Blogger/Blogspot blog). Another option is to use pkblogs.com, a site that was set-up to help Pakistani readers circumvent a Blogger.com ban in place in their country.