by December 31, 2012 0 comments

How censorship affects people, communities and businesses

On Jan 18, 2012, Wikipedia and some other leading websites observed a mass online blackout to protest against SOPA/PIPA bills, to bring to public light the danger that looms in the form of the two proposed legislations: SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) in the United States House of Representatives. Both are two versions of the same anti-piracy bill, intended to curb online piracy and fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.

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The detractors of the legislation warned that the Protect IP Act would have a negative impact on online communities. Those in favour of it assert, the bill’s aim is not web censorship. However, in effect it can have drastic implications such as Internet censorship, threatening social networking and free speech forums. People entirely dependent on online for business might be out of business and even companies can find their online presence jeopardized despite accrediting their source.

Investors can stop investing in online platforms like YouTube or Facebook

In a survey conducted by Booz & Company in the US, the participating angel investors and venture capitalists said they will not invest in digital content intermediaries (DCIs) because acts like SOPA/PIPA can be used to sue or fine websites for using pirated digital content uploaded or posted by users. DCIs are the companies that provide search, hosting, and distribution services for digital content such as YouTube, Facebook, SoundCloud, eBay, etc.

Censorship of Internet in India

India’s tryst with online censorship goes back to 1999, after the Kargil war, when the website of Pakistani daily Dawn was blocked in India by VSNL at the behest of the government. This was followed by the censoring of Kynhun, a Yahoo group linked to the HNLC from Meghalaya, in 2003. The website was found to be posting anti-national news. When Yahoo! was reached to ban the outfit’s movement online, they declined and the government reacted harshly by blocking the entire Yahoo! website for two weeks.

John Doe: the new villain for Indian online community

A few months back, the brunt of censorship was heavily felt by online communities when the Madras High Court under the John Doe/Ashok Kumar order instructed all Internet service providers to block sites like Torrents, Dailymotion, Pirate Bay and many more to prevent illegal downloading of a Tamil movie called 3. When a group of Internet service providers sought more clarity on the order, the court confirmed on June 15 that only the URLs of the film in contention should be blocked and not the entire website which hosts millions of other links. The court asked the producers to provide the pirated link of the movie to the Internet service providers so that it can be blocked. The ban has been revoked and the gagged sites are back, but the sword of Damocles is still hanging over online communities.

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