Indian free speech goes the China way
July 19, 2006 12:51 AM   Subscribe

Blogspot, Geocities, and TypePad blocked in India. Indian ISPs, who had been ordered by the Indian government to block certain blogs, have blocked the entire,, and (by IP), rendering hundreds of thousands of blogs inaccessible in India. The block was ordered by the government apparently because terrorists were using blogs to co-ordinate their activities. Indian bloggers, upset at the blanket ban, have started a wiki to keep track of the situation. They have also created a mailing list to discuss the issue. Some prominent Indian bloggers are also tracking updates. Indian laws require ISPs to install filtering equipment and follow government orders to block sites, or the can lose their licence to operate. This is not the first time such an incident has occurred. In 2003, the government ordered a block on a Yahoo group that was supposedly anti-national. Indian ISPs ended up blocking Yahoo Groups completely. India's recently introduced Right-to-Information Act, which many bloggers are planning to use, gives the government 30 days to respond to an RTI request. In the interim, despite national and international coverage of the issue from the likes of New York Times (linked earlier), Washington Post, CNN, New Statesman, and WSJ (paid reg. required), these major blogging sites remain blocked.
posted by madman (37 comments total)
It shouldn't be too hard to block by virtual host, really. Even something as brain-dead as putting a bad DNS entry for the subdomain.
posted by delmoi at 12:59 AM on July 19, 2006

Well, there's always proxies and coral cache.

I'm not surprised. India, for all its recent modernization and liberalization, still boasts of an pseudo-autocratic socialist government.
posted by Gyan at 1:02 AM on July 19, 2006

"boasts" isn't the word I'd use, Gyan. ;)
posted by madman at 1:06 AM on July 19, 2006

Of course, what's completely stupid about this is that it's trivial to just host somewhere else. Don't block them, WATCH them. Dopes. You CAN'T stop communication on the Internet.
posted by Malor at 1:06 AM on July 19, 2006

I'm very suspicious of this move. My guess is that Congress knows it can't stop the upcoming communal violence that's going to rock Bombay once the bombing suspects are named and are trying to limit the damage by denying bloggers the ability to cover it. They might claim that they are silencing the Hindu facists, but I think they know that the Shiv Sena and BJP are just better organized on the ground than that in Maharashtra and would like to prevent the world from fully seeing how bad it's going to get.
posted by allen.spaulding at 1:22 AM on July 19, 2006

Exactly, the only think they've acheived now is tipped them off while pissing off regular joe and jane blogger.
posted by dabitch at 1:23 AM on July 19, 2006

It is clear by now that there's some technical screwup going on. While Blogspot and other domains are clearly blocked, the actual intended list seems to be a lot smaller.

As an Indian, apart from the actual act of banning (and all its free speech/fundamental rights implications) itself, I find troubled by three aspects: -

a) The apparent eagerness with which ISP's toed the government line,

b) The reasons for the sites to be blocked: - the blogs the government is trying to block aren't your garden-variety Al-Qaida-isque sites that I thought they would be initially; rather, with the sole exception of, they seem to be Indian and American right-wing wankfest. Surely, this guy isn't worthy of a nation's ire?

c) That we've had to file a frigging public interest litigation or an Right To Information request to resolve a ban like this. Even movies have a censor committee and an arbitration panel. There's a clear discrimination by media over here; while books and published material have zero censorship guidelines, movies have a censor committee, and websites seem to be regulated through entirely autocratic means.

Is it me, or has the Republic gone waaay autocratic over the years?
posted by the cydonian at 1:40 AM on July 19, 2006

More authoritarian measures are the only way to deal with communication issues.
posted by ryoshu at 1:48 AM on July 19, 2006

Not wishing to inject undue levity, but this does raise the awful possibility of terrorist myspace...
posted by tannhauser at 1:51 AM on July 19, 2006

the cydonian : "Is it me, or has the Republic gone waaay autocratic over the years?"

Oh yes, the halcyon days of Indira Gandhi.
posted by Gyan at 1:54 AM on July 19, 2006

the cydonian, the ISPs have no choice in the matter. Yes, they are being dolts to block the entire doman, but as per the terms of an ISP licence in India, if the government says "block this", they have to follow. (Please pay attention to pages 15-17.)
posted by madman at 1:54 AM on July 19, 2006

Ah, of course. Eroding our freedom for the benefit of society. *hops back into bubble*
posted by liquorice at 1:54 AM on July 19, 2006

Gyan: Touche on Indira Gandhi :-D, but that's still missing the point isn't it; while the Emergency was autocratic in action, my point was that the legal frameworks in themselves have possibly become more autocratic.

Actually, screw even that. All you need to say is FERA. :-) But that's whole new argument, isn't it?

madman: No denying that the ISP's had any choice, but it does feel as if the ISP's showed undue haste in the said blocking. Additionally, I must point out that some of the posts on BloggersCollective were saying that the ISP's apparently got into action after a mere phone call.

Btw, glanced through your site and... a complete derail, but glad to see my other love being displayed on menus back home. Should swing by your restaurant the next time in B'lore.
posted by the cydonian at 3:29 AM on July 19, 2006

2009: In surprise move, the Government called for a ban on speech. It was demonstrated that Terrorists use speech to communicate plans. Journalists, asking for clarification, were arrested on the spot, for speaking.
posted by Goofyy at 3:49 AM on July 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

In somewhat related news, Indian ISPs want the government to ban Yahoo Messenger and Skype. The crappy argument of "national security" is being brought up again.
posted by madman at 3:56 AM on July 19, 2006

in other news, median IQ in India shoots up 50 points.
posted by quonsar at 4:25 AM on July 19, 2006

So many governments / politicians still don't get the intranets - India is no exception. It is a shame that they are willing to totally shut down parts of the internet / service without really understanding that these technologies are univeral and not specific tools of terrorists.

If they block such a general tool like websites and blogs - why not shutdown mail servers, instant messaging and any web access anyway?

Freedom of Speech needs to be protected - but first the many modern ways of speech need to be understood by politicians. And terrorists will certainly not be stopped by closing down access to blogs.
posted by homodigitalis at 5:57 AM on July 19, 2006

Sepia Mutiny and Ultrabrown had this story up a few days ago. They have pretty good coverage.
posted by chunking express at 6:19 AM on July 19, 2006

You know what else terrororists use? TCP/IP, that's what.
They should block that.
posted by signal at 6:35 AM on July 19, 2006

You know what else terrororists use? TCP/IP, that's what.
They should block that.

Nah, electricity's to blame for all of this.
posted by oaf at 7:10 AM on July 19, 2006

Oxygen. Terrorists breathe oxygen. Get rid of that, you get rid of the terrorists.
posted by Zozo at 7:18 AM on July 19, 2006

Not surprising from a culture with a rigid class system and one in which women's rights is something of a joke. Civil rights starts on the street level and then works its way up to the net.

I'm sure the economic concerns of not being able to make money from a tightly closed internet will fix this post-haste.
posted by skallas at 7:37 AM on July 19, 2006

well thats it; lock up the internet and go home

its over.
posted by duality at 7:53 AM on July 19, 2006

"Sepia Mutiny"? Heh.

What was that cliché about "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it"? Silly governments...are we learning yet? If so, maybe the wrong lessons. It's like that matron at the girls' reformatory in Reform School Girls: "Control, complete control! Ahahahahaha!"

(Another great line from that movie: "So what?")
posted by pax digita at 8:11 AM on July 19, 2006

Stupid move.

Now that they've blocked any terrorists dumb enough to use these services to discuss their plans, how will they continue to monitor them?

I'm sure they're tapping some suspects' phones in that country. Will they shut down that system too?
posted by fungible at 9:44 AM on July 19, 2006

What was that cliché about "The Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it"?

You realize thats not actually true, right?
posted by delmoi at 12:42 PM on July 19, 2006

Tack on "eventually."
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:47 PM on July 19, 2006

So what if you can technically defeat a barrier. Youre still breaking the law. In China you can get past the great firewall but when caught you wont be able to use the tor network to get out of prison.
posted by skallas at 12:59 PM on July 19, 2006

Rediff is reporting that the blogckade will be lifted soon.
posted by dhruva at 9:58 PM on July 19, 2006

What an outrage!

madman, Thanks for this important information and iniating a discussion about this oppression of freedom of speech by a goverment that prides itself on being the world's largest democracy and having a constitution that supposedly upholds those rights.

It reminds me of the censorship that has taken place under the guise of the Patriot Act in America and all the political abuses by the Bush dynasty et alia after 9/11. Makes me wonder if this horrendous string of bombings in Mumbai wasn't deliberately done in order for the Indian government (or the American government puppeting India) to take a stranglehold on the psychological, financial and social revolution that has taken place in India because of the use of the internet there. (takes off tinfoil hat, reluctantly).

Mumbai is now home to at least three dozen American companies including Kodak, Heinz, Monsanto, Warner Bros, Federal Express, Bank of America, Bankers Trust, Parke Davis, Intel, JP Morgan, Kellogg, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, American Int?l Group, Exxon-Mobil, Delta and Boston Consulting.

Delhi has AT&T, GE, General Motors, Oracle, Pepsi, Unocal, Xerox, Lockheed, Raytheon, Rockwell, Honeywell, Adobe, AES, Alcoa, American Express, Northrop, McKinsey, Amway, Polaroid and Coca Cola.

Bangalore has Caterpillar, Dell, Sun, Texas Instruments, NCR, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, Lucent, IBM, Novell, Ingersoll-Rand, American Data and MetLife.

Hyderabad has Microsoft, Cognizant, Chip Engines and Brigade. Chennai has Ford, Caltex, Tenneco, Covansys, Diebold, Citibank, Ernst & Young and Price Waterhouse.

A billion potential consumers of American products.

When I was in New Delhi in 1984 I remember the censorship then during Operation Blue Star. I thought that indicated Russia and America were more politically involved in Indian/Pakistani/Afghani politics than I knew about at that time. America has been deeply involved in Pakistani politics for a while now.

The bombings in Mumbai possibly caused by a Muslim group, which may be connected with Kashmiri separatists, possibly connected with Pakistan...and this vague unknown triggered the Indian Government to pull a Patriot Act type censorship literally days after the event?

Indian women have been working against being censored in India for while now.

Books may not be overtly censored but there is censorship of literature in India.

Try and solve a problem with a solution, not another problem: Censorship on top of terrorism is problem on top of problem and will make things worse, no doubt about it.
posted by nickyskye at 2:20 PM on July 20, 2006

homunculus, What a find that blog is! OMG, the CIA does waterboarding???!!! YIKES!! Brava Econo-Girl for speaking up about this!

But where does she talk about the banned Indian blogs?
posted by nickyskye at 8:57 PM on July 20, 2006

PS Protest letter/petition in re: banned blogs.
posted by nickyskye at 9:03 PM on July 20, 2006

posted by homunculus at 10:00 PM on July 20, 2006

homunculus, Thanks for clarifying. :)

A little more:
Still Banned in India, Why It Still Matters, & How You Can Still Help.

Why The Jawa Report Was Banned in India and Why it Matters.

To contact the Indian Embassy and express outrage about the unConstitutional banning.
posted by nickyskye at 11:07 PM on July 20, 2006

Here is the government order to block the sites. See how sites are completely free of any "offensive" content.
posted by madman at 11:38 AM on July 21, 2006

Ban still in place today. This seems to be some bizarre scapegoating of those specific sites too.
posted by nickyskye at 12:37 PM on July 21, 2006

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