by May 28, 2012 0 comments



The world will remember 2012 as the year India tried every form of censorship imaginable on the internet, and failed.

Well, “failed” is a relative term. On the face of it, the Evil Empire is winning.

Minister Kapil Sibal put the screws onto internet companies and managed to worry them.

A little-known “journalist” filed a case against Facebook, Google, Microsoft and a dozen companies, mysteriously echoing the language and thoughts of Kapil Sibal in his deep worries about how internet content could cause riots.

West Bengal chief minster Mamata Banerjee slammed down on a hapless professor who circulated a harmless (if not very funny) cartoon by email to friends, throwing the book (and a series of charges, including offenses under Section 66A) at him.

The Section 66A of the IT Act (2008 amendment) got used repeatedly against Indian citizens. Along with the Intermediaries guidelines (2011) Rule (3), which requires that all intermediaries (ISPs, telcos, e-mail or blogging services..) remove content that is “harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory…”. The arbitrary provision lets you send a takedown notice for any online content that offends you, and the blogger getting the notice has three days to take the content down-with no chance to defend herself.

Activist-blogger Vidyut Kale got a take-down notice for her blog post about a raid on a yacht party, where she exposed a history of financial misdealings. She too got a taste of Rule (3).

In preparation, Blogspot started redirecting users to country-specific sites with country domains. If you had catfood.blogspot.com, you’d now get redirected to catfood.blogspot.in if you were in India. Why? To “provide more support for managing content locally… and to comply with removal requests from specific countries,” says Google. (See bit.ly/divide-net)

In the background, there was the bizarre episode of the Ambedkar cartoon made by political cartoonist Shankar sixty years ago. The cartoon was banned, the NCERT textbook it was in was withdrawn, professors were attacked, and there were calls for dissolving the NCERT.

Also in May, video sharing site vimeo.com and bit-torrent site thepiratebay.com got blocked by private Indian ISPs such as Airtel. In response, on May 17, the Congress party and the Indian Supreme Court websites were attacked by the hackers collective Anonymous Central, which tweeted: “Namaste #India, your time has come to trash the current government and install a new one. Good luck.”

Anonymous was also responding to the Indian support for a proposal at the UN, made in October 2011 and due for hearing in May 2012. The plan: a 50-member UN body to control the internet. (See bit.ly/net-cop) The proposed Committee for Internet Related Policies (CIRP) would be funded by the UN, and would oversee all internet standards bodies. Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar wrote to the prime minister, saying that India should withdraw its consent to the proposal to gag the Internet.

The government of India has not moved a great deal past the “control” mindset of the pre-internet, centralized-broadcast era. “If there’s information on it — control it,” it says, in essence.

As opposition leader Arun Jaitley said: “The Emergency could not have happened in the internet age. You can control print and electronic media, but not the internet. The circulation is so wide, the fear psychosis is demolished.”

Finally, India joins an elite G-5 body. China, UAE, Russia and Cuba share India’s vision for controlling the internet. The Net-Nanny G-5. Welcome to the club.

Oh, wait. Mr Jaitley is right. The Internet can’t really be “controlled”. Sorry, Mr Sibal.

BLURB

Finally, India is in a G-5. China, UAE, Russia and Cuba share India’s vision for controlling the Net. Welcome to the Net-Nanny club

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