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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

UNETHICAL STATE CENSOR: How good is India at patrolling the web?

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Jaimon Joseph, CNN-IBN / Updated Aug 16, 2011 at 06:00pm IST.

New Delhi: In the aftermath of the London riots, Britain considered tighter controls on the Internet, to prevent social unrest. How good is India at patrolling the web? Nikhil Pahwa, the Editor of recently tried uploading his holiday photos from Ladakh to a file sharing site to share it with friends. He couldn't do it because unknown to most of us, Internet Service Providers (ISP), had blocked all file sharing sites in the country, to prevent online piracy of the movie 'Singham'.

"Instead of blocking access only to the copyright infringement of 'Singham', everything was blocked. That's limiting my choice, my usage of services when I have done nothing wrong," Nikhil said.

Now, with a new set of IT rules for companies that connect people to the Internet, any content or any website the government objects to, can be blocked within 36 hours by sending a written note to an ISP. The rules cover any content deemed harmful, blasphemous, defamatory or obscene and anything that disrupts public order or threatens India's security.

Some legal experts suggest that these words are too ambiguous. For example, a big part of Anna Hazare's campaign was waged online. The question is whether the government could one day decide that it is a risk to public order and force it offline.

Recent reports suggest that the government will watch whatever one posts on Facebook and Twitter. The new IT rules allow the government to find out who we are, where we are and what we do on the net. Unusual, because till now, even for a simple telephone tap, the government needed authorisation from court.

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