INTERNET CENSORSHIP IN INDIA: IS IT NECESSARY AND DOES IT WORK?

 

 

 

 

SARAI-CSDS

 

Short Term Independent Fellowship for 2004.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Internet Censorship in India:

 

Is It Necessary and Does It Work?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ketan Tanna

Mumbai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.ketan.net

Mobile: 91-9821034500


 


Acknowledgments

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am grateful to my parents

 

Narottam (Bachubhai) Mulji Tanna and Kusum Tanna

 

as well as my friend Viraf Doctor

 

for their support and help.

 


Contents

 

 

 

 

1

Introduction

The curious case of www.hindunity.org and role of the Mumbai police.

 

 

2

Internet Censorship in India

Origins and blocking of Yahoo groups

 

 

3

Laws that govern Internet Censorship in India

 

 

4

Is Internet Censorship Necessary?

 

 

5

Does Internet Censorship work in India?

 

 

6

Internet Censorship- India vis-à-vis the world

 

 

7

Interviews

 

 

8

Conclusion

 

 

9

Annexure

 

 

 


 

Chapter 1

 

Introduction

The curious case of www.hindunity.org and the role of Mumbai police

 

 

THE CYBER CRIME INVESTIGATION CELL (CCIC) www.cybercellmumbai.com is a small non-descript unit tucked away in two small rooms of a crumbling building near the entrance of the Mumbai Police Headquarters located in the crowded Crawford Market area of South Mumbai. It was inaugurated on 18th December 2000 and it is functioning under the overall guidance of Joint. Commissioner of Police (Crime), Additional. Commissioner of Police (Crime) and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Enforcement)

 

Then there is the CCIC cyber cell in Worli area of Mumbai central. The staff of this cell besides police officers consists of young tech enthusiasts who voluntarily put in their time and supplement the efforts of the CCIC. It is from here that the Mumbai police patrols the cyber space and takes cognizance of all that they think is going wrong in the world wide web, at least as far as the state of Maharashtra is concerned. On the surface of it, the web site of CCIC lists three type of cyber crimes-Hacking, Child Pornography and Cyber stalking.

 

However on April 28, 2004 a letter from the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai was dispatched to all Internet Service Providers (ISP) that access to www.hinduunity.org be blocked immediately.

 

Formerly state owned, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) and now a part of the respected Tate group promptly complied. Most of the other ISPs including Hathaway and HCL Infinet followed suite. Sify resisted pointing out that such orders, under Indian law, should be conveyed from the Computer Emergency Response Team, Department of Telecommunication, and Government of India

 

The Rediff site quoted Sify spokesman, David Appasamy as saying that “only CERT has the right to issue such an order," and that in the case the CERT did, Sify would comply. This writer of this report sought Sify’s response in a form of questionnaire and a spokesman… promised to answer but chose not to for reasons unknown.

 

That apart, the Mumbai Police in its haste to impose the ban initially chose not to go through proper channels i.e. CERT. In an interview to this writer, the then former Joint. Commissioner of Police (Crime), Mr. Satypal Singh and currently the Inspector General of Police (Konkan Range) justified the step

 

“We received a complaint from Beed (a small town in western Maharashtra better known as the home town of former Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and BJP leader Mr. Gopinath Munde). We were told that www.hindunity.org was a provocative site and had the potential of creating law and order problems. Yes, it was a local resident who filed the complaint but it had the potential of all India repercussions. We then got the case transferred to the crime branch and a decision was taken to ban access to the site”, says Mr. Singh

 

It was then that VSNL was instructed by the CCIC. “We wrote to them and other ISPs and the ban was implemented”, says Mr. Singh.

 

Wasn’t the ban imposed in a hurry? Why did not the Mumbai Police wait for the CCIC to issue orders? “It was not done in a hurry. We simultaneously wrote to CCIC when we wrote to the ISPs. I cannot tell you the dates off hand about which letter went first and which went afterwards. But we went through proper channels” asserted Mr. Singh.

 

The proper channels in this case---- the CCIC---concurred with the decision of the Mumbai Police though by all indications CCIC’s formal orders came much later as far as Mumbai and the whole of Maharashtra state was concerned.

 

Weeks after the Mumbai police took action; the CCIC imposed a nation-wide blanket ban stopping Indians from accessing www.hindunity.org

 

Overnight, a site that very few had heard about and had no interest in became (in) famous. State after state, the ISPs started blocking access to it and as of today, the site is not accessible from any of the ISPs in India.

 

This was the second biggest Internet censorship move initiated by the Indian establishment after the clumsy ban on Yahoo! Group kynhun in September 2003

 

The fall-out of the ban on www.hindunity.org

 

Without an iota of doubt the site is vitriolic and aims to provoke the Hindu sentiments.

 

The front page of the site has been produced below to illustrate acidic rants:


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HinduUnity/Patit Pavan to protest in Pune, March 27

Click to enlarge

VSNL Blocks HinduUnity.org website
Elections: Did they die for this?
Muslim to represent PMO in talks with J&K separatists
Sonia's statement on her educational qualification -- FRAUD
Criminals in Puppet Cabinet
Secularists (Pseudos) Click here!
Rahul Gandhi was a KGB Agent, received billions
The definition of secular
Muslims backstab BJP
New anti-India govt. to scrap India-Israel-US triad plan

HINDUS 0 : ANTI-NATIONALS 1

BJP LOOSES, SONIA WINS.
The results are best depicted in the picture below.
Bharat will now bleed endlessly.


 BJP+ 186 (138+48), INC+ 217 (145+72), Others 136 ( 1 2 3 )
 
 

HINDUS! When will you arise and save Bharat from bleeding to death? 
HINDU MASSACRE IS A COMMON THING IN INDIA.

When will you all stand up and cleanse our soil of these HINDU KILLERS? 
SHAME ON ALL OF US! WE STILL HAVE NOT RAISED AN EYE BROW!

****PETITION ALERT ****
Sign Petition - Say no to Salman Khan playing the role of Lord Ram!

"If this movie is produced, cinema theaters in India will be taking a big risk in 
playing it.  Who is to say what can happen to these establishments when the motive is to purposely hurt Hindu sentiments" -
Rohit Vyasmaan, Chairman H.U.
 
 -
March 13th
Muslims ha

WEBSITE UPDATES
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Has a Muslim's prophecy come true?
by: Arvind Lavakare
Hindus! Find out what happens to money generated in temples across India
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ELIMINATE THE HAJJ SUBSIDY FROM INDIA
Let there be equal rights for Hindus.


 

 PBS is now against Christians as well as Hindus!
PBS,  recruiting for Islam
- Stop funding PBS!
After Hindu bashing, PBS becomes Allah's Network
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Hindus Sign this Petition to Support IDRF
Reporting bias on IDRF by Francois Gautier

ANTI-HINDU, BIJU MATTHEWS EXPOSED!
...just another Communist Conspiracy against India


  

The Will of our beloved, Shri Nathuram Godse  

"My dear Dattatraya,
If you are allowed to perform last rites of my body you may perform them in any manner.  But I am to express herewith a specific wish.
The river Indus (Sindhu), on the banks of which our pre-historic Rishis composed the Vedas is the Boundary of our Bharatvarsha i.e. Hindusthan. My ashes may be sunk in the Holy Sindhu River when she will again flow freely under the aegis of the flag of Hindusthan.  That will be the sacred day for us. It hardly matters even if it took a couple of generations for realizing my wish.  Preserve the ashes till then, and if that day would not dawn in your lifetime, pass on the remains to posterity for translating my desire into reality.
If and when the Government lifts ban on my statement made in the Court, I authorize you to publish it."
4-11-1949,   Nathuram Vinayak Godse

 


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       The attack on Afghanistan should continue during Ramadan without a doubt.  Hundred of Hindus are savagely massacred  during Ramadan in India.  If Muslims don't care about brutally killing during Ramadan, then let's not be gullible!.  In  1973, Egypt and Syria joined the forces to attack Israel during Ramadan.  That war began on Oct 6th, a date commemorating one of Prophet Muhammad's great military victories against non-Muslims or Infidels.  This war came to be known as the Ramadan War.  Let us not purposely blind fold ourselves!

  
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Quran: Chapter 9, Verse 5: “Then when the Sacred Months have passed, kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush. But if they repent and observe the Islamic lifestyle, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful

 

 

Yet, how many Indians knew of the site? How many cared? More to the point, how many rabble-rousing sites of one or the other religion can the Indian government ban or impose access restrictions?

 

Neither the CERT-IN nor the Mumbai police have a clue about that. “We have detailed guidelines. The government is supposed to take action against any site that has the potential to jeopardize the law and order situation in India”; asserted Mr. Singh adding that the decision to impose a ban on www.hinduunity.org was “welcomed” though “someone did criticize it by email”

 

Whatever the case may be it was a bonanza time for the movers and shakers of the site. The web site is run by a Hindu activist from the US, Rohit Vyasmaan logged” 17,000 hits a day” according to media reports

 

Was the move by the Mumbai police and later followed by CERT to ban public access to www.hinduunity.org justified?

 

When asked about it, the former telecommunications minister, Arun Shourie declined to comment on Internet censorship to this writer saying that he was no longer a minister and that he “wanted to focus on the books that he was writing”. Earlier, when he was a minister, he did not reply to a questionnaire or numerous phone calls either.

 

More than Indians living in India, the ban provoked many an Indians living abroad or foreigners of Indian origin

 

The reaction in India was muted and the press did not raise a hue and cry as it did in September 2003 when India blocked access to Yahoo groups.

 

But for the www.hindunity.org it was manna from heaven.

 

 


Chapter 2.

 

Internet Censorship in India

Origins and blocking of Yahoo groups.

 

 

When and how did Internet censorship begin in India? Was it the blocking of access to Dawn newspaper during the Kargil war or was it earlier? Noted Cyber activist and Supreme Court advocate, Pavan Duggal is of the view that Internet censorship in India gained momentum during Kargil war and thereafter.

 

“Internet censorship in India really picked up from that point of time (Kargil). Censorship is not new to India and Internet censorship also has been in discussion in the public domain for quite sometime.  The Kargil war did see India responding to the various cyber war initiatives of Pakistan and the early seeds of censorship could be seen from that point of time. The blocking of the yahoo groups in 2003 came much later” says Duggal

 

Active suo motto internet censorship took firm roots by Kargil war but according to Madanmohan Rao, Research director at the Asian Media Information, Communication centre (AMIC) and editor of "The Asia-Pacific Internet  Handbook” blocking of access to sites was first done commercially when VSNL blocked access to Vocaltec late 1990s!

 

According to Rao, users were downloading VoIP software to make international phone calls over the Internet, which was deemed a threat long distance was the monopoly of VSNL. Indeed, in an effort to restrict access to Internet telephony sites, VSNL blocked subscriber access to sites like Vocaltec (vocaltec.com), Web Phone (.NetSpeak.com) and Net2Phone (Net2phone.com). The ISP also cut off access to Cult of the Dead Cow, a tips and tools site for hackers. Mr. Arun Mehta, a telecom consultant, challenged VSNL’s move in court. Mr. Mehta filed a case against the ISP in the Delhi High court protesting against the attempt to impose censorship on the Internet through the ban of Net telephony sites.

 

Then there was the curious case of Seema Kazi, 37 and a freelance researcher who found her emails being blocked. A report in the Financial Express http://www.financialexpress.com/fe/daily/20001129/efe29006.html

said that Kazi did not get any mails from an e-group called the Middle East Socialist Network (MESN). The group conducts debates on socialist activism, political economy, democracy, religion and politics in the Middle East, subjects that interested Ms Kazi. The moderator of the list told her that her ISP-the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL)-had blocked all e-mail to and from the group. On October 31, 2000, armed with the response from MESN, Ms Kazi confronted an official at VSNL's customer services section in New Delhi. The official confirmed that e-mail to and from MESN had been blacked out. "I was told that Muslims have links with Pakistan. And MESN posed a potential security hazard. So they had to take this step," Ms Kazi said.

 

It was during the Kargil war in – that the Indian government tried to blocked access to on-line edition of Dawn, a leading Pakistani newspaper. The then Chairman of the VSNL Amitabh Kumar admitted (http://www.flonnet.com/fl1615/16150230.htm) that the action had been taken on instructions from "higher authorities" in the Ministry of Telecommunications. . The newspaper continued to be accessible to Internet subscribers through other Web sites. The government of course justified it under the garb of national security.

 

But the issue internet censorship really hit headlines in India when the government in September 2003 forced all ISP in India to block access to all of the yahoo groups in order to block access to one single group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kynhun

 

It was the first of its kind. Ten of lakhs of Indian Internet subscribers subscribe to yahoo Groups that deal with variety of subjects ranging from religion to gardening to cooking to law. the list is endless. One such Yahoo group called Kyunhun started by denizens of Meghalaya and having less than 100 subscribers was deemed to be “promoting anti-national news and containing material against Government of India & State Government of Meghalaya." by the Indian government.

 

What provoked the Indian government so much that it decided to curb freedom and the rights of Indian citizens?  Here are some of the articles that outraged the Indian government:

 

MEGHALAYA THE ABODE OF CLOUDS 

 

Meghalaya, a composite State of the Hynniewtrep and the Achik Community was born on the 21st January 1972 under the patronage of the Indian Political system. The Hynniewtrep and Achik Community being the Indigenous people of the Sate shares similar matrilineal system which consequently were brought together in one State i.e. Meghalaya.  

 

Remarkably, it was the Indigenous people that dedicated to the Hill State movement but just on the edge to form a new State, an unknown Indian emerged out from nowhere and christened this newly formed State ‘Meghalaya’ meaning the ‘Abode of clouds’ which is a Sanskrit word, the ancient literature of the Hindu in the plains of India. The christening of ‘Meghalaya’ is not a pride or honour for the Indigenous people but instead it is a treacherous and a highly political conspiracy of the Hindu majority to Sanskritise the Indigenous people in which the Indigenous people themselves have lost their own valuable ethnic Identity in the whole world.

 

Further, illegal immigrants from the neighbouring countries including those from the plains of India dared to claim themselves to be called ‘Meghalayan’ because of the alienated word ‘Meghalaya’ and thus the national existence of both the Hynniewtrep and the Achik community are at stake i.e. historically, politically, socially, economically, culturally, etc. At present Meghalaya is a barren land with no political care, it became the land with no proper boundary since the politicians were always busy with their different agendas for their own best interests. Going further, Meghalaya has become the land with no visions, the land with no political leaderships, the land with no policy makers, but just a land of the nefarious corrupted politicians and bureaucrats.    

 

 

THE NEWS: 

MEGHALAYA’S DGP FRUSTRATE AND DESPERATE OVER HNLC’s LEADING PERFORMANCE: 

 

The Khasi-Jaintia people are one and united under Ri Hynniewtrep and so, for that reason the HNLC had proposed the Presbyterian Church to unite the Hynniewtrep people by avoiding the Khasi-Jaintia breakup but it may mentioned that this proposal was opposed by certain people especially by L. Sailo the Meghalaya Director General of Police. Hence it is true that ‘desperate people could talk endlessly’ as all his statements were baseless, as he knows nothing about the history and culture of Ri Hynniewtrep.   

 

 

PEACE RALLY TURNS OUT TO BE A FAILURE: 

 

The so-called peace rally organized by the Greater Mawlai Peoples’ Union (GMPU) under the leadership of F. S. Cajee turns out to be a failure as very less people pay the heed to the said peace rally, it may be mentioned that the peace rally was organized by the political minded people, especially in these times when the Assembly Election 2003 is on the edge for their own best interests. 

 

 

INDIAN ARMY MAJOR KILLED BY VILLAGERS IN ASSAM:   

 

An Indian Army Major, a resident of Shillong was killed along with his two accomplices at Dispur District by the villagers in an attempt to raid the village with the members of the Surrendered United Liberation Front of Asom (SULFA) for a ransom money which costs their lives. However, the Indian Army in the so-called self-defence killed six other civilians of that village. 

 

 

INDIAN BSFs ON THEIR LOOTING AND HARASSING SPREE

 

People all over Ri Hynniewtrep have witnessed with their own eyes in a weekly edition of a local media regarding the looting and harassing of the Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) to the local people at Lyngkhat village, a place bordering Bangladesh. The BSFs are stationed there for the purpose to protect the villagers but instead they are merrily making money by looting and harassing the villagers and smuggling the goods to Bangladesh through their agents. 

 

 

URANIUM MINING TO BE STARTED DESPITE STRONG STONG PROTESTS: PUBLISHED BY THE PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT OF THE HYNNIEWTREP NATIONAL LIBERATION COUNCIL

 

Uranium Mining at Domiasiat, Wahkaji and other uranium deposits in Ri Hynniewtrep is going to be started despite protests from various fields including NGO’s. It is reported that the puppet state government is going to permit the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to go ahead with the mining. It should be mentioned here that the UCIL is involved in the uranium mining in Jadugoda at Jharkhand, which have left people there in disaster, thus making the people there victims of various dreaded diseases like cancer, tuberculosis, etc.     

 

 

A large number of north-eastern states of India face insurgency problems and that some of them have formed Yahoo groups was never a state secret. According to a note by the Press Information Bureau, when the Indian government approached Yahoo, it refused to comply with the directive. "The representatives of Yahoo! in India were requested to remove the objectionable material from the reference, however, they declined to comply with the request,”

 

Yahoo ‘s Country Head, Neville Taraporewalla declined to answer questions to this writer saying that it was the company policy not to speak and that it should be routed through their Public Relation Agency. The Public Relation agency-Perfect Relations after promising to answer “the next morning” had the following to say:

 

Dear Ketan,

 

I write to you on behalf of Yahoo! India. I am a colleague of Ms. Valerie Pinto.

 

The information requested from you is quite dated and will not be relevant for us to discuss at this point of time. This issue was handled by Yahoo! Inc. directly as it was a yahoo.com blocking and did not pertain to yahoo.co.in directly.

 

Moreover, Mr. Taraporewalla is out of town currently and it will be difficult for us to get answers within the short deadline.

 

Kindly bear with us this time.

 

Best regards,

Suhas Patel

Sr. Image Manager

Perfect Relations

322-B, Mhatrepen Bldg., S.B.Road,

Dadar - West, Mumbai - 28.

 

 

Yahoo’s indifference and an alleged point blank NO to ban the Kynhun yahoo group galvanized the bureaucrats in Ministry of Communications & Information Technology. In what can only be described as using a sledgehammer to swat a fly, the Ministry of Telecommunications in the Indian government tersely informed that access to the group was not desirable. Since most of the ISP in India did not have the means to ban a single group, they went ahead and restricted access to all the Yahoo groups.

 

The official letter from the government of India that was dispatched to the various ISPs is reproduced below:

 

The Kynhun e-group on its part promptly put out a press release following the ban. The text of the release was as following:

“The Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) Having carefully examined the notification signed by the Government of India through the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, Department of Telecommunications (LR Cell) No. 820-1/2003-LR (Vol I) dated 10/09/2003 by Jayant Kumar to ban “Kynhun” Yahoo Group which published the Internet Newsletter of the HNLC “The Voice”, felt that the Government of India had not done any justice by imposing the ban on the said news media without assigning any reason, however to show its superiority it had ordered the Officials of Yahoo and the Internet Service Providers to ban the said news media of the HNLC. Banning the site clearly shows a cowardly act on the part of the Government to bar off the people to read the Newsletter published by the HNLC and from the fact the Ban sends a message to the world that the tall claim of the Indian Government regarding the Freedom of Speech and Expression in the country is unjustified.

The main objective of the HNLC to publish the said Internet newsletter “The Voice” in the “Kynhun” Yahoo Group was not with an intention to cause harm or create a fear psychosis to anyone, but with an aim to bring about an awareness through write-up to the people of the State as well as around the world the movement and working principles of the HNLC. Further the ban being placed by Government of India does not have much to be considered as a concern, rather it has created more curiosity to the people around the world, who seemed interested to know more about the HNLC and about the existence of a race called the Hynniewtrep who are being suppressed and exploited by the Government of India. This is obvious from the correspondence being received endlessly from people around the world, evidently, giving an opportunity for the HNLC to become popular.

In conclusion, the HNLC urge all concerned to please bear with this inconvenience, until it finds a solution to restore back the media (i.e. The Voice), and the HNLC will not rest even if it have to find a new solution to enhance the communication and publicity of the Council besides the press release published in the local news media.

 

In the cat and mouse game that followed between the Indian government and the Kynhun group, the average citizen remained a mute spectator. But the Indian media revolted against the move and the newspapers and egroups as well as sites were flooded with anger and indignation against the nanny tactics of the Indian government. Some of these reports have been attached as annexure.

 

It was also but natural that the membership of the banned group went up by 100 percent, as did the flow of messages. The following column illustrates the effect that the ban had on the group

 

 

 Jan

 Feb

 Mar

 Apr

 May

 Jun

 Jul

 Aug

 Sep

 Oct

 Nov

 Dec

2003

  3

  4

  2

  2

 

  2

  3

  5

  3

  26

 

 

2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1

  5

  2

  1

 

Prior to the ban, the group had all of three messages in September 2003 but after the ban the number went up to 26. Since then, the ban on access to the group stays.

 

 


Chapter 3

 

Laws that govern Internet Censorship in India

 

 

“If certain sensitive points in our power supply systems, railway signalling systems, stock markets are punctured, it would lead to a total breakdown in services. The impact on civilian society can be disastrous with the enemy taking advantage,”

 

With these words, on January 20, 2004, the then minister for Information technology, Arun Shourie formally inaugurated the Computer Emergency Response Team-India (CERT-IN). It was another matter that CERT-IN had been functioning for a while and the minister just put a formal stamp on it on January 20, 2004

 

Observing that Indian computer systems are vulnerable to simultaneous attacks, which can disable several types of activities like air and rail traffic, missile launches and stock market operations, Shourie said CERT-IN would provide both pro-active and reactive services for enhancing cyber security. In a message to the team, the then Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani said all critical infrastructure sectors of the country would work closely with CERT-IN.

 

What is the CERT-IN about and what all does it consists of?

 

The CERT-IN system has web servers such as IIS, iPlanet, Apache, Mail services, Data Base Management Systems such as Oracle, SQL server, network devices such as Firewalls, IDS and Routers. Incident Response Teams of CERT-IN, set up by the Department of IT, have expertise in major hardware and software platforms such as Windows, Sun Solaris, Unix and Linux. The operations of CERT-IN are carried out in the Secure Operating Center (S-NOC). An incident response help desk function is available on 1-600-11-4949 and on fax number 1-600-11-6969.

 

The Times of India said that CERT-IN was “expected to serve as a central point to respond to computer security incidents, facilitate communication among experts working to solve computer emergencies, and establish international linkages in the area. The increasing use of the Net and the fact that it is the link for e-commerce, e-governance, and online information access has alerted the government to the danger of website attacks”.

 

It was the CERT-IN that was behind the move to restrict access to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kynhun. Noted media critic Sevanti Ninan in her column in The Hindu has described in detail how the process to ban Kynhun yahoo group worked. I am reproducing Sevanti Ninan’s article on the role of CERT-IN as far as Yahoo Group Censorship is concerned:

(http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/thscrip/print.pl?file=2003101200180300.htm&date=2003/10/12/&prd=mag&)

 

 


An organisation in Meghalaya which advocates secession had set up this group, and the request for blocking it came from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The incident served to advertise that the Government has now got its act together on the issue of blocking websites.

 

There is a procedure in place, with a single authority which will issue instructions. There is a specified list of individuals and organisations from whom the request can come, and a chain of command thereafter. The single authority notified for the purpose is the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), which was created about a year ago, primarily to promote security in cyberspace for government organisations as well as private sector websites. This is its first brush with publicity and it is mortified that it is negative. It sees the blocking chore as a small, peripheral part of its work, which involves issuing advisories on security preparedness, and responding to emergency incidents in cyberspace involving hacking or major virus attacks.

 

The chain of command is that officials from the rank of joint secretary upwards in specified departments and ministries can request CERT-IN to block a site, and the latter has to satisfy itself that a complaint is authentic and the action essential. Then it tells the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to block the website, which in turn issues instructions to all the Internet service providers in the country.

 

Had the latter quietly blocked this one discussion group, nobody might have noticed. But they had never received such a request before and three of them (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, Data Access and Sify) wrote back immediately to DoT to say that since their infrastructure made it technically impossible to block just one group they had ("as per your directive") blocked all of Yahoo Groups, thousands of them. Eager compliance that triggered howls of protests, mostly on the Net. Internet service providers (ISP) after all, are more concerned about not losing their licences than about protecting free speech. (For instance, the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) took a day-and-a-half to figure out the precise modification that would be required for the proxy server based server settings for that page.)

 

Censorship does stay quiet in this country, which is a great thing. Nor does it achieve its objective. See what this attempt did for Kynhun. BriU Hynniewtrep, the Meghalaya discussion group, seeking a separate state for the Khasis. Its membership grew from 25 or so before the censorship, to 214 after it. The year-old group had meandered along unnoticed, with an average of three postings a month. Post ban, it got 23 in four days.

 

Last week the Department of Information Technology summoned the ISPs for a meeting to ask them to make sure that they would not goof up similarly in the future.

 

It said it wanted to see that harassment to Net users was reduced. Meanwhile a debate has erupted in the press over whether the sections of the IT Act, being cited, actually empower an organisation like CERT-IN to impose censorship by blocking. They don't. But the Government claims inherent powers. Though protest has subsided, the ban on all Yahoo groups continues in some ISPs at the time of writing. BSNL for one was continuing to block all Yahoo groups. Media vigilance on this issue needs to be revived.

 

One suspect that CERT-IN will be more squeamish about compliance the next time it gets a request to block a site. As it is, this is the first of about 10 blocking requests that it has complied with

 

 

According to Pavan Duggal (I am quoting him ad verbatim), in the year 2003, the Government of India came up with two notifications relating to the subject of Blocking of Websites. By virtue of the notification dated 27/02/2003, the Central Government designated Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) as the single authority for issue of instructions in the context of blocking of websites. The notification dated 07/07/2003 states that "websites promoting hate content, slander or defamation of others, promoting gambling, promoting racism, violence and terrorism and other such material, in addition to promoting pornography, including child pornography, and violent sex can reasonably be blocked."


The intention of the Government to block the afore-mentioned websites is indeed noble, however the manner in which the Government has gone about this exercise leaves much to be desired. To complicate matters further, the Government states that the blocking of the afore-mentioned websites is for the purposes of ensuring "balanced flow of information" and not censorship.


Legally speaking, there are a couple of gray areas. The notification of 27/02/2003 has been issued under Section 67 and Section 88 of the IT Act 2000. It is not at all valid to create CERT-IN to regulate the contents in websites under these sections. This is so because neither Section 67 nor Section 88 of the IT Act 2000 empowers the Central Government to create such an authority. In fact the Central Government has sought create CERT-IN on perceived imaginary powers which the statute never gives to the Government. Section 67 is the third section that appears in chapter XI entitled "Offences" under the IT Act. This provision declares the Act of publishing, transmitting or causing to be published in the electronic form any information which is lascivious or appealing to the prurient interest or obscene as a penal offence punishable with imprisonment ranging up to ten years and fine up to Rs. 2 lakhs.

 

This provision does not give any power to the Central Government of any kind whatsoever. Similarly Sec 88 provides for the Constitution and the powers of the Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee (CRAC). This provision also does not give any powers to Central Government. On the contrary it only empowers CRAC to advise the Central Government on issues connected with the IT Act. Since no power flows from these two provisions, the constitution of CERT-IN under the same is of no legal significance and is liable to be not upheld in a court of law. I am not saying that the Government does not have the power at all to block or create CERT-IN. However, surely the power does not lie in the aforementioned provisions.


The Government Notifications have not been happily drafted. They are too one-sided and give no effective legal remedy for the blocked websites. In fact, the blocked websites have no say in the matter. The proposed mechanism is against the established principle of Rule of Law. However if somebody went to a court of law, it is likely that the court may insist upon the Government or CERT-IN to give an opportunity to be heard to the concerned website and/or its owners before blocking the site. However given the global nature of the Internet it may be reasonable to expect the opportunity of being heard to be given to those legal entities which are located in India.


Every citizen of India has got a Fundamental Right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. Normally Fundamental Rights are inviolate and cannot be violated even by Government except in some circumstances. However, the Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression is not absolute and is subject to Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

 

It was not just laws at the national level. Various state governments took it upon themselves to patrol the World Wide Web and decide who should see and surf what. Just like the cable industry, which is the nodal point for access to those who see television in India, the Cyber Cafes in India are the access route for a majority of Indians. Personal Computers penetration is still not high in India and the preferred route for a majority is the ubiquitous Cyber Café.

 

In Mumbai, for example, the Mumbai Police or the CCIC have had series of meetings with café owners and here are the some of the rules and regulations and forms that will be made mandatory for them

 

 

Proposed Rules for Cyber Café Licensing

 

  1. This license shall be for a period of 1 year and can be further continued, subject to renewal thereof by the Licensing Authority.
  2. The application for a Premises License in new Form 'DD-5'.
  3. The fee for the grant of Premises License for Cyber Café and Computer and/or Virtual Reality Games shall be as follows:

 

No. of Personal Computers/ Machines

(1)

License fee for 1 years

(2)

Up to 10 units

From 11 to 20 units

More than 20 units

Rs. 2000/-

Rs. 3000/-

Rs. 5000/-

 

1.      Hours of performance: - Cyber Café, Computer and/or Virtual Reality game shall operate between 0800 hrs. to 2300 hrs. only.

 

 


SPECIAL RULES FOR CYBER CAFÉ, COMPUTER AND / OR VIRTUAL REALITY GAME

 

Personal Identification

 

a.       Every visitor to a Cyber Café is required to produce any authentic photo-id card.

b.      Every licensed Cyber Café is required to maintain a physical log of users to be filled in by the user itself as stated in Form-M.

 

Physical Layout

 

a.       All Cyber Cafés that have cubicles or partition be required to ensure that minors are not allowed to use machines in cubicles or behind partitions.

b.      All 'open' machines must face 'outward', i.e., must be facing the common open space of the Cyber Café.

c.       Partition if any installed/built inside the Cyber Café shall not exceed four and half feet in height from the ground level.

d.      A board viewing 'Pornography site is not allowed' should be prominently displayed in the Cyber Café.

 

Software

 

All 'open' machines to which minors are restricted be equipped with suitable safety software to restrict access to pornography

 

Internet Protocol Allocation/ Access logs

 

a.       Cyber Café who have a block of Internet Protocol Address from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) may choose to directly use them on their client machine. In such a case, they must maintain a list showing, which Internet Protocol Address is allocated to which machine.

b.      Cyber Cafés with shared Internet Protocol Address (single or multiple), which are then shared amongst a number of local machines, must maintain an electronic log that shows the mapping of a unique physical Internet Protocol with the 'masqueraded' Internet Protocol. The actual method used is irrelevant, so long as the Cyber Café is able to tell the authorities, on demand, during enquiry, which machine was allocate which Internet Protocol address at a specified time.

c.       Log records of the users must be maintained for at least six months and should be produce before Police for investigation purpose on demand.

d.      There should not be any nuisance to the residents of the area and public in general.

e.       No person shall be allowed to sell any alcoholic drinks, hot or cold beverages or foodstuff within the premises.

f.        The license shall not promote, encourage or connive gambling in whatever form.

g.       License is required to maintain a physical log of users as per Form-M.

h.       Cyber Café owner shall take reasonable care to block the access of pornographic sites by the users of Cyber Café, by installing such software’s.

i.         1 to 10 number of computers in the Cyber Café will be considered as one Unit and each Unit will require a license. Multiple Licenses can be taken for single premise by making necessary for all different licenses of multiple units.


FORM "DD-5"

 

APPLICATION FORM FOR PREMISES LICENCE IN RESPECT OF CYBER CAFÉ OR SIMILAR ESTABLISHMENT

 

Court Fee Stamp

From: -

M/s. __________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

______________________________________

 

To,

The Commissioner of Police,
Desk-X, (Theatre Branch),
Brihan Mumbai.

 

Sub: - Application for the grant of Premises License for Cyber Café or similar establishment providing services of Internet / Internet connectivity in a public place.

Sir,

 

I/We the undersigned, Shri/Smt/Kum ___________________________
Owner(s) of Cyber Café / Computer and / or Virtual Reality Game (as defined under section 2(9) of Mumbai Police Act-1951, definition of place of public amusement), by name M/s. _________________________________________ would like to apply for grant Premises License at the following address. The place belongs to me/us taken on rent / is on lease / leave and license.

Details are as follows (if more than one-applicant details of each applicant are provided): -

1) Full Name of Applicant:                     _________________________________

(Extended initials)

2) Occupation:                                        _________________________________

3) Parentage:                                         _________________________________

4) Age (Date of Birth)                             :_________________________________

5) Nationality                                        :_________________________________

6) E-mail address of the owner:                 _________________________________

(a) Full Name and Address of the:             _________________________________
Cyber Café /Establishment 

(b) Telephone No.                                  : _________________________________

(c) Fax No.                                           : _________________________________

(d) Email Address of the Cyber Café:         _________________________________

(e) How many branches/outlets:               _________________________________
Give details as per this form.
(Use separate sheet if required)

(f) Approximate area of the:                    _________________________________
Premises

(g) Number of Terminal proposed:               _________________________________

8) (a) Whether premises are owned,          _________________________________
Leased, rented or taken on leave and
License by applicant - owner? (Specify)

(b) If on rental, lease or leave and:         _________________________________
License period of tenancy/lease/
License.

9) (A) whether any other name is:          _________________________________
Used for the establishment,
if so, give details.

(b) Whether applied in the past for:         _________________________________
Similar License.
If so, give details.

10) All telephone numbers at the:           _________________________________
Cyber Café with name and address
of the telephone subscriber.
(Use separate sheet, if required)

11) Name and Address of conductor or:   _________________________________
Operator of Cyber Café if other than
Applicant-owner.

 

12) Copies of documents bearing signature of the applicant, which is to be attached
with this application (Whichever is applicable according to each activity.): -

        Shops & Establishment License.

        Copy of partnership deed, if partnership firm.

        Rent Receipt, if the place is on rent/lease

        Tax assessment / paid receipts.

        Certificate from Govt. Electrical contractor / Private contractor regarding the safeness of electrical fittings.

        Document from fire brigade to the effect that all precautionary measure are taken from public safety point of view.

        Bill of fire fighting equipment of current year.

        Certificate from Telephone Providers (wired or wireless) certifying that the telephone is functioning / in working order and has been duly installed in the premises.

        Ownership documents if the applicant owns the premises.

        Name, address and other details of manager / conductor, employees to be provided separately on the firm's letterhead.

        Occupation/ Commencement Certificate of building stating "NO ACTION PENDING" from B.M.C.

        If establishment is a Company, copy of Memorandum of Articles.

        Copy of the resolution under which applicant is authorized to sign and obtain the above license from the Licensing Authority.

        Certificate from the Internet Service Provider (I.S.P.) regarding particulars of I.S.P. connection including user's name and allocation of Internet Protocol (I.P.) address (Sixteen Digits Numerical Address)

        Certificate from the I.S.P. that the applicant is allowed to share, resells, and distributes the I.S.P. services in whatever manner.

        Number of machines (Servers / Computer Terminals) installed.

        Detailed particulars of the licensed software/operating systems to be installed on each computer.

        Details and Particulars of Hardware / Software Engineer / Consultant.

 

If any other documents are required, the same will be submitted as soon as we are informed. Copies of above documents are attached herewith.

It is requested that Premises License may kindly be granted. I will abide by the conditions of the license.

Thanking you,

Yours Faithfully

 

 

(Full Name & Signature)


 

FORM- M

FORMAT IN RESPECT OF THE LOG RECORDS OF THE USERS TO BE MAINTAINED BY THE CYBER CAFÉS LOG RECORDS OF USERS

 

Sr. No.

Date

Start Time

End Time

Memebership

/Spl. Membership No.

(If any)

Full Name of the User

/Age/

Gender

/Nationality

Address and

Telephone number

of the user

Photo Identification Produced

Computer Used

(Lan id name/no.)

Purpose (web surf/E-mail/Chat

Etc.

Amount Collected

Initial of Conductor

/Manager

Signature of User

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





The spin off has been that a majority of cyber café owners in Mumbai maintain a register though the check on Ids is not strictly implemented and neither does anyone take digital pictures as suggested by the Bangalore police

 

 

Here is what the BBC had to say about the attempts of Mumbai police:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3431645.stm

 

By Zubair Ahmed
BBC correspondent in Bombay

 

Internet cafe owners in India's commercial and entertainment capital, Bombay, are angry at plans to regulate the city's cyber centres.

 

They object to plans, which would force them to keep records of people using their Internet facilities. The proposals will be put to the state legislature next month.

 

Police say they need new powers to prevent the misuse of the web by what they call terrorists, hackers, paedophiles and users of adult sites. If the proposals are adopted by the state of Maharashtra, cyber cafe owners will need to buy a licence to set up shop.

 

They will be legally required to install software filters to screen out pornography and unsuitable content. They will crucially have to ask potential surfers to fill out lengthy forms listing addresses, telephone numbers and other details.

 

All of these would legally have to be made available to the police, if required. Cyber cafe customers would need to display photo identity cards. Only then could they go online.

 

Bombay's several thousand cyber cafe owners are furious at the plans.

 

They say it is important to prevent increasingly internet-savvy India from going down the China route of regulation and control. If passed, the new law would come just weeks after Cuba controversially tightened its grip over internet access by making it impossible for many Cubans to dial up the internet from their home telephone lines.

 

Bombay's plans could set a precedent for other Indian cities, such as Calcutta and Delhi. They are known to be watching closely to see if the tough cyber policing works.

 

"On the one hand we are opening up our economy, on the other hand we are introducing irrelevant regulations," said Dilip Chitalia of Asiatic Cyber Cafe.

 

"We have no problem with taking down names and addresses of our patrons, but who's to check if the names and addresses are genuine. Who'll be responsible?"

 

Net boom

 

Until now, Indian cyber cafes have been relatively simple to use. They are increasingly easy to find as well, even in small-town India.

 

And they have been relatively inexpensive. According to a recent industry estimate, 60% of India's Internet users access the web through a cyber cafe.

 

Experts say the cyber cafe has contributed to the boom in Internet usage in India, now estimated at four million subscribers and 18 million users. But many like Chitalia believe it could all go badly wrong if the police start the crackdown on cyber cafes.

 

In a sign they are ready to do battle, Bombay's cyber cafe owners have set up the Association of Public Internet Access Providers. Its president, Ashish Saboo says the plans would be an invasion of the individual's right to privacy.

 

He believes the police plans come from "a lack of awareness about how the business operates and over-hyped apprehensions of security hazards". The police have refused to comment.

 

Seeking permission

 

In recent months, police are reported to have increasingly found hackers and credit card fraudsters using cyber cafes. Mr. Saboo admits criminals, paedophiles, those who surf adult websites, could use cyber cafes.

 

But he rejects police plans to, as he puts it, penalise, all cyber cafes. If regulated, cyber cafe owners would need permission from no fewer than 13 separate government agencies in order to set up shop and do business.

 

60% of India's net users access it through cyber cafes

 

"The internet has challenged all the close societies, because of the free flow of operations," said Mr. Saboo. "Gone are the days when the customs men would seize your Playboy edition, so why are the police trying to curb our freedom?"

 

Cyber cafe owners fear their patrons might resent handing over personal details and it could lead to a sharp drop in business. But interestingly, many younger users seem not to mind handing over personal information. "I would like to give my personal details, because I believe it would reduce the crime," said Vaishali, a regular cyber cafe user.

 

Another visitor, Dennis Abraham, added: "There's nothing wrong with giving your name and address. "It's like going to a residential complex in Bombay, where a watchman is standing guard. You have to write your name and address before you enter the building.

 

"Why can't we do the same when we visit a cyber cafe?"

 

 PC penetration is low in India. There are just seven million PCs in a country of one billion people.

 

That is why the Internet cafe is considered the driving force of Internet usage with most Indians relying on them to send e-mails and do research. There are no official figures but the cyber cafe owners' association believes there are at least 200,000 across the country.

 

Ramola Talwar Badam of the Associated Press filed the following story that was carried across continents:

 

BOMBAY, India (AP) -- Relatively few Indians can afford home PCs, so millions go online in the nation's jammed Internet cafes, enjoying their low cost and anonymity. But police in Bombay are planning to monitor cyber cafés, a move some are decrying as excessive regulation that could create a dangerous precedent.

 

Increasingly fearful that terrorists and other criminals are taking advantage of cyber cafés, Bombay police want to require customers to show photo identification and give their home addresses. Cafe owners would have to retain such records for up to a year and show them to police on request.

 

The proposal is to be presented next month to the Maharashtra state government and is expected to pass; critics have not been united in mounting opposition.

The requirements initially cover Bombay's 3,000 cyber cafés, used by an estimated 1.5 million, but Internet users fear that other cities will follow suit for the 200,000-cyber cafés across the country.

 

Cyber café owners fear they will be held liable if police investigators find that hackers, extortionists or terrorists operated from their cyber café. Other critics worry about delays in accessing information.

 

"Speedy communication will be that much more difficult if people are asked 20 questions and interrogated before entering a cyber café," said Somasekhar Sundaresan, a lawyer specializing in technology. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., said a threat to anonymity is a threat to free speech.

 

"Governments can use the records of what people say in the e-mail messages that they send as a basis for prosecuting journalists, dissidents and political opponents," he said.

 

Shreya Kedwal, a bank executive interviewed in Bombay, said she wouldn't mind showing her ID but opposes the retention of home addresses.

 

"What if the police come knocking on my door and blame me for something I have not done?" she said. "How can I prove I didn't do it? And worse still, what if they come to my office and ask questions?"

 

Very few countries regulate Internet cafes, certainly among democracies like India. Among nations that have, China was the most strident, closing down thousands in 2002 in what it called a safety crackdown.

 

In the file-strewn office of the Bombay Police's four-person cyber crime unit, the walls are pasted with orange and blue stickers that read: "The Cyber Space. Safe To Use. Unsafe to Misuse."

 

The group, which has arrested 11 people for hacking and extortion over the past year, says it tackles complaints such as hacking, spam, credit card fraud and blackmail via e-mail. Police said they are probing how terrorist networks use the Internet, but would not give details.

 

Retired. Col. Mahendra Choudhary, an independent intelligence expert who has trained Bombay police, said investigators have enlisted the help of technology experts and Internet providers to trace e-mails through which they believe terrorist groups communicate.

 

Bombay police are convinced their proposed measures will make "wrongdoers" think twice before misusing Internet cafes. “error organizations are known to use chat rooms and keep in touch by e-mail. This is a worry for the whole world, not just for Bombay," said Ramesh Mohite, assistant police inspector with the Cyber Cell unit. "Once cyber cafés are regulated, these people may stop going there."

 

Police officials, however, were unable to cite any investigations hindered because a cyber café didn't keep records being sought. Bombay's street-corner Internet cafes offer about six people just enough elbowroom to surf the Net for less than 33 cents an hour.

In the late 1990s, all small entrepreneurs needed to open a cyber café was about $8,900 for office space and some computers with Internet connections; Internet cafe owners say the police plan will kill their business.

 

Under the police proposal, Bombay's cyber cafés would have to pay annual license fees and obtain clearances from at least five government departments, a requirement that critics fear would lead to harassment and possibly requests for bribes.

Cafe owners also must install software filters - at about $400 each, or more than the average $300 monthly earnings of many cyber cafés - to block pornography and other material deemed offensive. Police even considered requiring cyber café owners to track and record Web sites visited, but they later dropped it as impractical. Nonetheless, cyber café owners said customers shouldn't count on privacy because home addresses would be recorded by time of day and could possibly be linked to computer logs upon police request.

 

"If people are not doing anything wrong, why should they worry about privacy?" asked Mohite, the police inspector. "What is important is being able to track a crime and keeping society safe.” But Sundaresan and other critics doubt the plan will be able to do even that unless the police expect cyber café owners to cross-verify addresses given to them. College student Tasneem Nimi said women would hesitate to give their home addresses, fearing stalking, among other things. If the rules take effect, Nimi said, she would likely go to a friend's house instead, or persuade her family to get a computer at home.

 

"I don't think the young crowd will go for this," said Nimi, 20. "OK, some people are misusing technology, but you can't have these rules for everybody."

 


Chapter 4

 

Is Internet Censorship Necessary?

 

 

Nearly everyone, be it media critics, lawyers, IT professionals think that Internet Censorship is not necessary in India. 

 

 

“I am not at all favour of any new kind of censorship.  This is so as it is neither necessary nor it can work.  Technology has fast outstripped the capacity of the nations to regulate the same. Seen from another angle the Internet is a necessary evil and countries will have to learn and live by the same. Internet censorship is no remedy. A better remedy would be to educate the population of the country and to bring it to such level that it becomes capable of identifying and distinguishing between what is correct and what is not”

Pavan Duggal

 

 

“Personally, I don’t favour censorship. However, to clarify the point, this government regulation is not censorship. It is about coming across offending/ potentially damaging content that is considered either a threat to national security or is pornographic or infringes on IPR, then this is a punitive action. Also, in the aftermath of September 11, we all know how paranoid even the most successful Internet economies have become, when it comes to monitoring/tracking for security reasons

Amitabh Singhal

 

 

“There is basically a trade-off between free speech and responsible speech, as in countries like Germany and discussions on Nazism, or with respect to sites about child pornography. But the challenge is that Internet censorship can always be circumvented! So governments may announce bans on certain offensive sites and gain mileage from political posturing and political correctness, but the fact remains that those want to publish/access such content will eventually find ways to do so”

Madanmohan Rao,

Research Director at the Asian Media Information, Communication centre (AMIC) and editor of "The Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook

 

 

“Not in favour of such censorship. Bans can always be circumvented”

Sevanti Nainan, Media Critic

 

 

The Law enforcement authorities in India however have different views on this issue.

 


Mr. Satypal Singh feels that though censorship is a double-edged weapon it gives a message.

 

“I agree that it is not practical to monitor each and every site. But by taking steps such as the one we have taken on the www.hindunity.org we have sent a message. The government cannot sit idle. It needs to take action when a complaint is lodged. You must understand that such sites could create law and order problems. And mind you, it is Constitutional. We are having our own riders and there is no such thing as unlimited freedom. Freedom comes with responsibility” says Mr. Singh pointing that “post 9/11, even United States of America has been mentoring and screening Internet.”

 

“Please do not get me wrong. I am not for blanket bans or Internet censorship. Each case has to be taken on merit”, added Mr. Singh





Chapter 5

 

Does Internet Censorship work in India?

 

 

Internet censorship can be circumvented in India and those who want to access a particular site will do so, irrespective of whether access to the site is banned or restricted.

 

Take the two well-known cases of http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kynhun and www.hinduunity.org

 

Both of them are accessible by proxy servers for those who want to access them. On paper, both of them cannot be accessed but in reality in the rapidly growing technological world, those who want to and have a little bit of enterprising nature normally circumvent restrictions.

 

It of littler wonder that all experts agree that banning and restricting access to sites is of limited value. “As the World Wide Web becomes more and more wide, dealing with the same shall become an increasingly difficult matter. India will continue to face the problem of how to deal with this ticklish issue.  I am not very sure whether effective technology will evolve to implement such bans effectively. This is so because technology develops on both the sides of the fence and it is difficult to come across with any comprehensive technology that really helps enforcing bans relating to Internet censorship.  I believe using proxy servers and various other kinds of newly emerging technologies and software tools can definitely circumvent such kinds of ban. Unfortunately, technology is not like the proverbial cat, which the pigeon wants to wish away. Technology is here to stay and nations of the world need to come across with different mechanisms to deal with technology and its challenges in an efficient way rather than to close their eyes on the rapid march of such technology”, says Pavvan Duggal

 

But then are experts who feel that restricting access has its use. “My sense is that Internet filtering generally works satisfactorily (from the point of view of authorities) in the countries that have implemented it. Certainly the UAE and Saudi Arabia have made huge investments in filtering technology (much of it purchased from US companies), but the result is that they can filter even just particular pages or particular images (and of course entire sites) they deem off-limits, and their filtering is flexible, customizable, and instantaneous.  Of course some readers know how to get around the filters, but even so they get the strong signal: The government thinks you shouldn't be reading this, and if you read it anyway, you proceed at your own peril.  That's a sign of effectiveness from the perspective of the government” feels Ben Edelman, Technical Analyst and Harvard Scholar

 

Sevanti Ninan is of the view that Internet censorship will always have nuisance value and can be circumvented. 

 

The long and short of various viewpoints is that resourceful persons can circumvent Internet restrictions.


Chapter 6

 

Internet Censorship- India vis-à-vis the World

 

 

Various organizations abroad have done in-depth research on the censorship in India. The good news is that India shines in comparison to many of its neighbours and certainly in relation to most of the countries. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that India has the least Internet censorship a view that the experts readily concur with. “(India’s record) is pretty good. not much censorship here” feels Sevanti Ninan while Madan Mohan Rao says that India is very liberal, especially in Asia

 

“In my previous book, "News Media and New Media" (about the impact of the Internet and wireless technologies on the news environment of Asia), I have documented instances of the Bangladesh government occasionally blocking access to news sites, Singapore blocking access to pornography sites, China blocking access to sites of political dissidents, and North Korea and Myanmar with draconian Internet censorship provisions. In comparison, countries like India and the Philippines have a vibrant press, in print and online”.

 

Amitabh Singhal concurs with the view. “We fare pretty well, from what I know (and I an far from being an authority on this subject). If you look at examples of China and such others and what we hear about it. They place blanket bans on major information sources on the Internet, they insure there is restricted access, etc. We don’t have that kind of situation here.”

 

How does Indian compared to other countries when it comes to Internet censorship? Here is what the organization Reporters Without Borders had to say about Internet censorship in India:

 

India

Population:                                                   1,049,549,000
Internet users:                                                    16,580,000
Average charge for 20 hours of connection:         7 euros
DAI*:                                                                               0.32
Situation** :                                                             middling

 

 

 

 

 

* The DAI (Digital Access Index) has been devised by the International Telecommunications Union to measure the access of a country's inhabitants to information and communication technology. It ranges from 0 (none at all) to 1 (complete access).

 

** Assessment of the situation in each country (good, middling, difficult, serious) is based on murders, imprisonment or harassment of cyber-dissidents or journalists, censorship of news sites, existence of independent news sites, existence of independent ISPs and deliberately high connection charges.


India has more media outlets than any other country in the world. It also has the most varied and lively news and magazine websites in Asia. Webmasters and Internet users fiercely resist federal and state authorities that regulate online activity with disregard for individual liberties.

 

The country is waging an intense "cyber-war" against its enemy neighbour, Pakistan. The two countries have reproduced their terrestrial rivalry on the Internet, hacking into websites and sending viruses to each other. "Roxx of Calcutta," "Cobra" and "Indian Snakes" are the new war heroes, blocking access to hundreds of websites and destroying thousands of Pakistani and Indian computers.


The government is making special effort to combat cyber crime and cyber-terrorism but the rights of Internet users are suffering.

 

 

New laws

 

Parliament approved the Information Technology Act in May 2000 to crack down on cyber crime, allowing cyber cafés and Internet users' homes to be searched without warrants at any time as part of criminal investigations. It also allowed the authorities to block access to sites considered pornographic or that "endanger public order, the integrity and security of the nation and relations with other countries." Those setting up "anti-Indian" websites can be jailed for up to five years.


A July 2003 government decree extended the range of Internet content that could be censored under the 2000 law. Websites promoting hatred, defamation, gambling, racism, violence, terrorism, pornography (including child-porn) or violent sex risk being blocked or closed down. The decree said barring access to such websites "may be equated to balanced flow of information and not censorship."


It also set up a Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) to handle Internet security and said many institutions and agencies would be allowed to call on it, including the home affairs ministry, courts, the intelligence services, the police and the head of the National Human Rights Commission. Many Asian and European countries have set up such regulatory bodies. Time will tell if India's CERT respects online freedom of _expression. The case of the Yahoo! Discussion forums (see below) raises some doubt about this.

 

 

Monitoring cyber cafés

 

The strict laws about the Internet allow prosecution of anyone infringing the country's moral and political laws. To show their goodwill, cyber cafés have put up notices warning young users.


Police in Mumbai proposed new measures against cyber crime to the state government of Maharashtra (which includes Mumbai) in February 2004 requiring people to show their ID and give their postal address before using a cyber café, which would be obliged to retain such data for at least a year. Cyber café owners would also have install monitoring equipment at their own expense (400 euros) to block access to pornographic websites and other offensive material. They would also have to register with the authorities and pay an annual licence fee (9 euros). The owners said these measures would involve the police demanding payoffs.


The Indian cyber café association, APIAP, protested against the measures which it said would lead to closure of most of the city's 3,000 or so cyber cafés. Asking customers for their address would discourage many, especially women, from going online.


A police inspector told journalists "if people aren't doing anything wrong, why should they worry about privacy?" This reasoning is similar to that of most police states.


By early March 2004, the Maharashtra state authorities had not implemented the measures.

 

 

Government orders Yahoo! discussion groups blocked

 

When ISPs complied with a request in late December 2003 by CERT-IN (its first censorship action) to block access to a pro-separatist Yahoo!-hosted discussion group, Kyunhun, all Yahoo! E-groups became inaccessible in India. In blocking the group's IP address, all other Yahoo! Groups were automatically cut off as well.


Kyunhun is linked to the separatist Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council, a Khasi tribal organisation in Meghalaya province. The Indian government has accused it of giving false information to the Pakistani intelligence services.

 


Online newspaper turns to paper version

 

The news website Tehelka (www.tehelka.com) has been constantly harassed by the authorities since 2001. Its journalists, who have revealed several high-level corruption scandals, have been the targets of police searches and arrests and the site was shut down in early 2003 (see 2003 Internet Report). Tehelka was re-launched in January 2004 in printed form and the website simply reproduced the paper's content.

 

 

Links

The Indian cyber café association                               www.apiap.cybernook.net

 

The Tehelka news site                                                               www.tehelka.com

 

The government Department of Telecommunications           www.dotindia.com

 

The independent magazine Frontline                                        www.flonnet.com

 

The computer magazine Dataquest                                         www.dqindia.com


Chapter 7

 

Interviews

 

 

 Full Text Interviews Of Prominent Personalities quoted in this report

 

Paavan Duggal,
Advocate, Supreme Court of India,
Cyber law Consultant,
President, CYBERLAWS.NET
Member, Nominating Committee, ICANN
Email: pduggal@nde.vsnl.net.in
pavanduggal@hotmail.com
URLs: - http://www.cyberlaws.net
Tel: 91-11- 25554607

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q         When did the trend of Internet censorship in India pick up? Would you say it was the blocking of access to dawn newspaper during the Kargil war or in the real sense it was blocking of yahoo groups in September 2003?

 

A         There is no specific time frame from where it can be said that Internet censorship in India really picked up from that point of time. Censorship is not new to India and Internet censorship also has been in discussion in the public domain for quite sometime.  The Kargil war did see India responding to the various cyber war initiatives of Pakistan and the early seeds of censorship could be seen from that point of time.  The blocking of the yahoo groups in 2003 came much later.

 

Q         As far as my knowledge goes, a yahoo e-group and hinduunity.org cannot accessed from India via any of the ISP. Is that correct? There are international reports that because of banning of hinduunity.org by Mumbai police other sites on the same IP address too cannot be accessed from here in India. How harmful has been such collateral blocking of sites?

 

A         As per my checking of the Internet as of 9.8.2004, I have found that the website www.hinduunity.org is not accessible over the net in Delhi. The concept of blocking does bring along with it various problems. Often the police wants to block one particular website. However, numerous websites may be allocated one IP address.  In the absence of more sophisticated tools to block specific websites, it often happens that the ISP lands up blocking a single IP address, which may also host many other websites. In such a case, the blocking of the IP address leads to unauthorized blockage of other collateral websites. 

 

For example in the yahoo groups case the Government only blocked one yahoo e-group. However, since the ISPs could not block that particular e-group alone, the entire yahoo e-group was not accessible thereafter. Such collateral blocking of websites can indeed be very harmful and counter productive. It tends to frustrate the netizens and builds a feeling of hostility amongst them in the face of their inability to really access legitimate information, which is available on the Internet.

 

Q         Can you tell me how the government goes about implementing the ban on sites? At what stage does the ISP come in?

 

A In India, the power of blocking websites has been given by means of notification dated 27.2.2003 and 7.7.2003.  By virtue of these notifications CERT-IN has been made the concerned statutory authority which is responsible for the purposes of blocking of website.

 

From the beginning of the Internet, blocking of websites has been seen to be an example of exercise of sovereign powers over the constantly innovating medium of the online world. Governments across the world, at various points of time, have flexed their muscles by resorting to blocking of various kinds of websites.

 


In the year 2003, the Government of India came up with two notifications relating to the subject of Blocking of Websites. By virtue of the notification dated 27/02/2003, the Central Government designated Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) as the single authority for issue of instructions in the context of blocking of websites. The notification dated 07/07/2003 states that "websites promoting hate content, slander or defamation of others, promoting gambling, promoting racism, violence and terrorism and other such material, in addition to promoting pornography, including child pornography, and violent sex can reasonably be blocked."

 

The intention of the Government to block the afore-mentioned websites is indeed noble, however the manner in which the Government has gone about this exercise leaves much to be desired. To complicate matters further, the Government states that the blocking of the afore-mentioned websites is for the purposes of ensuring "balanced flow of information" and not censorship.

 

Legally speaking, there are a couple of gray areas. The notification of 27/02/2003 has been issued under Section 67 and Section 88 of the IT Act 2000. It is not at all valid to create CERT-IN to regulate the contents in websites under these sections. This is so because neither Section 67 nor Section 88 of the IT Act 2000 empowers the Central Government to create such an authority. In fact the Central Government has sought create CERT-IN on perceived imaginary powers which the statute never gives to the Government.

 

Section 67 is the third section that appears in chapter XI entitled "Offences" under the IT Act. This provision declares the Act of publishing, transmitting or causing to be published in the electronic form any information which is lascivious or appealing to the prurient interest or obscene as a penal offence punishable with imprisonment ranging up to ten years and fine up to Rs. 2 lakhs.

 

This provision does not give any power to the Central Government of any kind whatsoever. Similarly Sec 88 provides for the Constitution and the powers of  the Cyber Regulations Advisory Committee (CRAC). This provision also does not give any powers to Central Government. On the contrary it only empowers CRAC to advise the Central Government on issues connected with the IT Act. Since no power flows from these two provisions, the constitution of CERT-IN under the same is of no legal significance and is liable to be not upheld in a court of law.

 

I am not saying that the Government does not have the power at all to block or create CERT-IN. However, surely the power does not lie in the aforementioned provisions.

 

The Government Notifications have not been happily drafted. They are too one-sided and give no effective legal remedy for the blocked websites. In fact, the blocked websites have no say in the matter. The proposed mechanism is against the established principle of Rule of Law. However if somebody went to a court of law, it is likely that the court may insist upon the Government or CERT-IN to give an opportunity to be heard to the concerned website and/or its owners before blocking the site. However given the global nature of the Internet it may be reasonable to expect the opportunity of being heard to be given to those legal entities which are located in India.

 

Every citizen of India has got a Fundamental Right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. Normally Fundamental Rights are inviolate and cannot be violated even by Government except in some circumstances. However, the Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression is not absolute and is subject to Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

 

The Constitution of India warrants the imposition of Reasonable Restrictions on Fundamental Rights. However whether these restrictions are reasonable in the particular circumstances of the case needs to be examined. I am of the opinion that these restrictions of blocking are not reasonable restrictions. This is so because these restrictions do not adhere to the principle of Audi Alteram Partem  (or hear the other side).

 

The chances are that the court may uphold the arguments of websites and declare these restrictions as not reasonable restrictions. This finds strength from the various judgments and case law declared by the apex court of the country.

 

In 1971, the Supreme Court held that in order to determine a 'restriction' to be a reasonable restriction, the same must not be arbitrary or excessive and the procedure and the manner of imposition of the restriction must also be fair and just. Restriction opposed to fundamental principles of liberty and justice is not reasonable. In determining whether a restriction is reasonable Court must see whether the aggrieved party has a right of representation against the restriction. Further it must see whether the restriction is imposed in an arbitrary manner.

 

Since the restrictions, although in larger public interest, do not give any effective opportunity of being heard or remedy to the targeted sites; the chances are that the court is likely to intervene in the matter. Everything ultimately would depend upon the peculiar facts and circumstances of each case and the kind of website blocked.

 

The new notifications are likely to remain paper tigers due to their inherent defects. The procedure stipulated by the new Notifications is so constricting that by and large common people or netizens would have no say in the matter. Further, since only Secretaries of certain Departments or Law Enforcement agencies or directions of the Court alone can activate the process of blocking, its constricting scope is likely to ensure its failure at the implementation stage. Further, how do you block pornography with billions of pornographic web pages available on the Internet and constantly growing? It is highly unlikely that the Government would be able to block pornography.

 

I am of the opinion that the Government in its bonafide adventurism has bitten off more than it can chew. Also how much time would the concerned Secretaries of concerned Ministries have for this exercise is clearly anyone's guess! We are also unlikely to see flooding of courts with blocking petitions.

 

The Government may succeed in blocking up some websites in some cases. The problem is that this provision may be misused by political powers in the regime to silence political dissent, criticism and debate under the garb of so-called factors of the notification, which may have a damaging impact upon the growth of Indian Democracy.

 

Normally the ISPs come in at the point when the Government directs the ISPs to do the blocking of the concerned website.  The ISPs are duty bound to comply with the directions of the Government. This is so due to the necessary conditions, which are stipulated as part of the ISP, licence.

 

Q         What are the penalties for non-implementation of the ban decision? Is the monitoring of ban stringent? Are there any cases that you are aware of where the Indian government/enforcement authorities have initiated action against cyber cafe owners/individuals?

 

A         In case if there is a non implementation of the ban decision, the ISP can face the music in terms of various actions from the Government's side including consequences resulting in termination of licence.  I am not aware of the level of monitoring of banned websites.  However the level of monitoring seems to have no consequence given the fact that Internet provides so many indirect methods of actually accessing the banned website. I do not have knowledge of any case where the Indian Government or law enforcement authorities have initiated action upon the Cyber café owner and individuals in the context of banned sites.

 

Q         What is the feedback from readers of your columns on the issue of Internet censorship? What about cyber cafe owners? Mumbai police have a huge list of dos and don'ts for each cafe owner; most of them are cursorily implemented. Can such dos' and don'ts be implemented in India or it will give further rise to corruption and to use a Mumbai colloquial word "hafta vasuli"?

 

A         During the last five years of my writing the Economic Times column as also writing various other columns in various different newspapers, I have got feed back from various readers who have expressed great amount of reservation on Internet censorship.  From the readers' reaction it is clear that the readers do not like censorship. To the extent that the censorship is necessary for protecting national interest, nobody seems to have any issue.  However, once the censorship starts being invoked on grounds that are not very substantial, such a method tends to lose the moral support and conviction of the netizens.

 

I have had various questions from cyber café owners regarding their liability because cyber café owners are the more visible and vulnerable targets for the Government and the law enforcement agencies to target, in case of non-compliance with the directions for blocking of banned websites.

 

This is become all the more so as cyber café owners are Network Service Providers under section 79 of the Information Technology Act. Network Service Providers are made liable for all third party data and information made available by them. Only in two limited conditions are they not liable.  The first condition is that they need to prove that they had no knowledge of any compliance or violation of the provisions of law. The second condition to be proved is that despite the exercise of due diligence they could not prevent the commission of any cognizable offence under the law.

 

Thus clearly cyber café owners are at the receiving end of the wrath of law enforcement agencies.

 

In the absence of any specific law relating to the liability of cyber café owners. I believe that cyber café owners become unnecessary targets of the law enforcement agencies for no fault thereof. This is all the more so considering that the cyber café owners do not have the wherewithal’s and resources to comply with the provisions of law.  Section 79 has already resorted in the emergence of cyber hafta, wherein the cyber café owners pay monthly charge to the police not to exercise the massive powers granted to them under the Information Technology Act.

 

Q         Are you in favour of such Internet censorship in India? Is it necessary and does it work?

 

A         I am not at all favour of any new kind of censorship.  This is so as it is neither necessary nor it can work.  Technology has fast outstripped the capacity of the nations to regulate the same. Seen from another angle the Internet is a necessary evil and countries will have to learn and live by the same. Internet censorship is no remedy. A better remedy would be to educate the population of the country and to bring it to such level that it becomes capable of identifying and distinguishing between what is correct and what is not.

 

Q         As the World Wide Web gets wider, what scope does Internet censorship have in India? Will technology be able to implement such bans effectively? Can such bans be circumvented by using proxy servers and such other mechanisms?

 

A         As the World Wide Web becomes more and more wide, dealing with the same shall become an increasingly difficult matter. India will continue to face the problem of how to deal with this ticklish issue.  I am not very sure whether effective technology will evolve to implement such bans effectively. This is so because technology develops on both the sides of the fence and it is difficult to come across with any comprehensive technology that really helps enforcing bans relating to Internet censorship. I believe such kinds of ban can definitely be circumvented by using proxy servers and various other kinds of newly emerging technologies and software tools. Unfortunately, technology is not like the proverbial cat, which the pigeon wants to wish away. Technology is here to stay and nations of the world need to come across with different mechanisms to deal with technology and its challenges in an efficient way rather than to close their eyes on the rapid march of such technology.

 

Q         Do you feel that the government in India discriminates between Internet and press/electronic media censorship?

 

A         I am not aware whether the Government in India discriminates between Internet and press/electronic media when it comes to censorship. In an increasingly convergent environment, the Government's notifications talk about electronic communications, incorporating within its ambit not just Internet but also the electronic press and media.  In any case in an increasingly convergent world it will become increasingly difficulty for the Government to discriminate between Internet and press/electronic media censorship.

 

Q         How does India compare with other countries as far as Internet censorship is concerned?

 

A         I can't really comment on how India fares as compared with other countries as far as Internet censorship is concerned, in the absence of any authentic statistics and data.  This is so because the public domain does not have many details of instances of Internet censorship indulged into by the Indian Government. I personally believe that in the new Internet era Governments have increasingly come to the realization that Internet censorship is neither really necessary nor desirable and that they need to devise new kinds of tools and methodologies for the purposes of dealing with the challenges of technology and Internet.

 

Q         Is there a way out as far as Internet censorship is concerned? Or do you think it is a necessary evil? After all, those who are for the ban point out that censorship of certain sites exists even in democratic countries like Australia, U.S.A (albeit pornographic, paedophiles sites).

 

A         I believe that some part of Internet censorship will continue in some measure or the other in our country.  Pornography is a typical case in point. This is so as the Indian cyber law has made the act of publishing, transmitting or causing to be published any electronic obscene information as a penal offence. Further countries like China have understood after much efforts, experience and deliberation that censorship does not really work on the Internet.  As stated earlier, countries will need to come up with various new methodologies to deal with this situation.  There are no straightjacket formulas in this regard.

 

Q         What role do you see for the Indian media and activists like you when it comes to combating Internet censorship in India?

 

A         I think media has a great role in building appropriate public opinion against indiscriminate Internet censorship.  We have a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic in our country established by the Constitution of India. While a great amount of freedom is permissible under the Indian Constitution, the enforcement of fundamental rights is subject to certain reasonable restrictions that the Government can impose. I believe the Indian Government has already pointed out that it is committed towards providing an enabling legal environment and that enablement, as distinct from regulation, occupies the foremost priority in the minds of the Indian Government. It will be interesting to see future developments in this space.

 

 

Interview given by Mr. Amitabh Singhal,

President of Internet Service Providers Association of India,

Senior Vice-President (Corporate Affairs) of GTL Limited (formerly known as Global Tele Systems Limited), the leading Network Engineering and IT services company

.amitabhs@gtllimited.com.

 

You are right, there were a couple of sites, which were to be banned on the instructions of CERT and DoT, the agencies authorised to direct ISPs to do so. One of the sites (forget the particular URL) was a yahoo group site and because ISPs were directed to immediately block the particular offending page/s, inadvertently most ended up blocking access to the whole yahoo group site. This was quiet sometime back and to the best of my info the problem does not exist anymore.

 

As per the current regulation CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) of Department of IT can issue directions to block any website, which is deemed offensive and/or threatening from the security point of view. Department of Telecom on other hand, as the licensor for ISPs can also issue similar directions. ISPs are required to mandatory follow the directives, i.e. to block the site/s mentioned. Of course, both the bodies follow certain governmental procedures such as taking sanctions and approvals, etc. beforehand, and then come to the situation where such directives are issued to ISPs. (ISPs come in at the stage when they are asked to block the sites).

 

Very clearly, both the government departments are authorized for this action and not implementing the orders can lead to an ISP loosing his license to provide Internet services. ISPs are asked to report compliance to the Orders.

 

During the yahoo group episode, there was quiet a backlash in terms of ISPs being hauled up by all kinds of users on the blocking. I think it was individual users who felt it more than the corporate sector users. I haven't had any feedback on ISPs business getting effected per se, but then there was negative publicity on the whole action.

 

Personally, I don’t favour censorship. However, to clarify the point, this government regulation is not censorship. It is about coming across offending/potentially damaging content that is considered either a threat to national security or is pornographic or infringes on IPR, then this is a punitive action. Also, in the aftermath of September 11, we all know how paranoid even the most successful Internet economies have become, when it comes to monitoring/tracking for security reasons.

 

It's difficult to tell any government to mind its business when it comes to security issues. Censorship however is different and I haven't come across any instance in out interactions with the government where they have shown any inclination to censor the net in India. That would mean having to get approval to upload and download every page or scrap of content on the net. That we all know is impossible. and certainly cant be attempted

 

We fare pretty well, from what I know (and I an far from being an authority on this subject). If you look at examples of China and such others and what we hear about it. They place blanket bans on major information sources on the Internet, they insure there is restricted access, etc. We don’t have that kind of situation here. 

 

 

Interview given by Madanmohan Rao,

Research director at the Asian Media Information, Communication centre (AMIC)

Editor of "The Asia-Pacific Internet Handbook”

 

Q         When did the trend of Internet censorship in India pick up? Would you say it was the blocking of access to dawn newspaper during the Kargil war or in the real sense it was blocking of yahoo groups in September 2003? The first instance of "censorship" of the Internet that I have come across in India was the strange case of "commercial censorship"

 

A         Blocking of access to sites like Vocaltec by VSNL in the late 1990s! Users were downloading VoIP software to make international phone calls over the Internet, which was deemed a threat to the incumbent monopoly ISP + long distance call provider VSNL.

 

Q         As far as my knowledge goes, a yahoo e-group and hinduunity.org cannot access from India via any of the ISP. Is that correct? There are international reports that because of banning of hinduunity.org by Mumbai police other sites on the same IP address too cannot be accessed from here in India. How harmful has been such collateral blocking of sites?

 

A         Direct access to the site is indeed blocked. But getting access to it is not much of a problem because proxy servers on sites like Anonymizer.com can help you access the site! I just accessed HinduUnity.org through the Anonymizer site, and it shows a page (embedded in a frame) with information on a protest against a joint India-Pakistan Independence Day celebration in the US. Savvy users will always find a way to circumvent the block.

 

Q         Can you tell me how the government goes about implementing the ban on sites? At what stage does the ISP come in?

 

A         As with countries like Singapore, a list of sites, which are deemed as “banned”, is drawn up, and the ISP blocks access to the corresponding IP addresses.

 

Q         What are the penalties for non-implementation of the ban decision? Is the monitoring of ban stringent?

 

A         Good question, I am not sure what the penalties are!

 

Q         What is the feedback from readers of your columns?

 

A         Very positive! Way back in 1997 I wrote columns urging VSNL to avoid it’s blocking of VoIP and instead team up with Indian IT companies to develop world-class VoIP software. A number of readers congratulated me on the idea and the spirit of the argument.

 

Q         Are you in favour of such Internet censorship in India? Is it necessary and does it work?

 

A         There is basically a tradeoff between free speech and responsible speech, as in countries like Germany and discussions on Nazism, or with respect to sites about child pornography. But the challenge is that Internet censorship can always be circumvented! So governments may announce bans on certain offensive sites and gain mileage from political posturing and political correctness, but the fact remains that those want to publish/access such content will eventually find ways to do so.

 

Q         As the World Wide Web gets wider, what scope does Internet censorship have in India? Will technology be able to implement such bans effectively? Can use proxy servers and such other mechanisms circumvent such bans?

 

A         Yes, see great example of Anonymizer.com above.

 

Q         Do you feel that the government discriminates between Internet and press/electronic media censorship?

 

A         Yes, most governments do, because print/TV/radio have a longer history and wider reach. In the case of broadcast media, spectrum is scarce, so issues of ethics and fair representation also apply.

 

Q         How does India compare with other countries as far as Internet censorship is concerned?

 

A         Very liberal, especially in Asia! In my previous book, "News Media and New Media" (about the impact of the Internet and wireless technologies on the news environment of Asia), I have documented instances of the Bangladesh government occasionally blocking access to news sites, Singapore blocking access to pornography sites, China blocking access to sites of political dissidents, and North Korea and Myanmar with draconian Internet censorship provisions. In comparison, countries like India and the Philippines have a vibrant press, in print and online.

 

Q         Is there a way out as far as Internet censorship is concerned? Or do you think it is a necessary evil? After all, those who are for the ban point out that censorship of certain sites exists even in democratic countries like Australia, U.S.A (albeit pornographic, paedophile sites).

 

A         Yes, see response #6 above.

 

Q         What role do you see for the Indian media when it comes to Internet censorship?

 

A         Indian media should provide updates and regular debates on this controversial issue, especially for students studying media, development or law.

 

 

Interview with Ben Edelman -

Technical Analyst (May 1998 - Sept. 2002)
Student Fellow (Sept. 2002 - Jan. 2004)

 

 

Ben is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Economics at Harvard University and a student at the Harvard Law School. He previously studied economics and statistics as a student at College. Ben’s recent research agenda includes evaluation of registrations in new TLDs, a quantitative comparison of commercial and non-commercial uses of the Internet, and an examination of Internet filtering efforts by governments worldwide.

 

When at the Berkman Center, Ben's projects included analyzing the formative documents and continued activities of ICANN, running Berkman Center webcasts, and developing software tools for real-time use in meetings, classes, and special events. Ben previously oversaw ICANN Public Meeting webcasts and operated the technology used at ICANN's quarterly meetings. More recently, he wrote about domain name politics, particularly in the context of expired domain names subsequently used for pornography and registered with false WHOIS data.

 

I'm sorry for the slow reply.  I'm currently travelling, with only limited Internet access. I’m no expert on Internet filtering in India -- it's just not one of the countries I've ever looked at, studied, or tested.

 

As to the harm of blocking other sites that share IP addresses, check out my article on the subject: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/edelman/ip-sharing

 

My sense is that Internet filtering generally works satisfactorily (from the point of view of authorities) in the countries that have implemented it. Certainly the UAE and Saudi Arabia have made huge investments in filtering technology (much of it purchased from US companies), but the result is that they can filter even just particular pages or particular images (and of course entire sites) they deem off-limits, and their filtering is flexible, customizable, and instantaneous. Of course some readers know how to get around the filters, but even so they get the strong signal: The government thinks you shouldn't be reading this, and if you read it anyway, you proceed at your own peril. That's a sign of effectiveness from the perspective of the government.

 

One important role for the media here is to actively, thoroughly, and diligently follow and report on Internet filtering. If a country increases filtering, that's newsworthy. If hundreds of innocent unobjectionable sites are blocked, that's newsworthy. Sometimes the reporting is hard -- it's hard to find the facts, hard to find credible and informed sources, etc. But this is an important subject that shouldn't be ignored.

 

 

Interview with Sevanti Ninan,

Media Critic, Columnist, The Hindu

 

Q         When did the trend of Internet censorship in India pick up? Would you say it was the blocking of access to dawn newspaper during the Kargil war or in the real sense it was blocking of yahoo groups in September 2003? 

 

A         The first. Was one incident, not a trend that picked up. Was the start of Internet censorship?   

 

Q         As far as my knowledge goes, a yahoo e-group and hinduunity.org cannot accessed from India via any of the ISP. Is that correct? There are international reports that because of banning of hinduunity.org by Mumbai police other sites on the same IP address too cannot be accessed from here in India. How harmful has been such collateral blocking of sites? 

 

A         The ban is certainly not there any more on all yahoo groups.  As for hinduunity.org, you can check for yourself by trying to access it.

 

Q         Can you tell me how the government goes about implementing the ban on sites? At what stage does the ISP come in?

 

A         The formal procedure is through CERT-IN in the department of electronics. I have described it. Some agency has to ask for the ban, and then they review the request and take action.

 

Q         What are the penalties for non-implementation of the ban decision? Is the monitoring of ban stringent?

 

A         I don't know.

 

Q         Are you in favour of such Internet censorship in India? Is it necessary and does it work? 

 

A         Not in favour of such censorship. Bans can always be circumvented. 

 

Q         As the World Wide Web gets wider, what scope does Internet censorship have in India? Will technology be able to implement such bans effectively? Can use proxy servers and such other mechanisms circumvent such bans?

 

A         Internet Censorship will always have nuisance value.  Yes they can be circumvented.

 

Q         Do you feel that the government discriminates between Internet and press/electronic media censorship? 

A         It would not be able to appoint a government agency to censor press and TV and get away with it.

 

Q         How does India compare with other countries as far as Internet censorship is concerned?

 

A         Pretty good. Not much censorship here. 

 

Q         Is there a way out as far as Internet censorship is concerned? Or do you think it is a necessary evil? After all, those who are for the ban point out that censorship of certain sites exists even in democratic countries like Australia, U.S.A (albeit pornographic, paedophile sites).

 

A         I am in favour of parental control, not state. 

 

Q         What role do you see for the Indian media when it comes to Internet censorship? 

 

A         Intelligent reporting on it, some vigilance.

 

 

ARUN MEHTA

Internet Guru, Professor, IT Consultant

B-69, Lajpat Nagar - I, New Delhi --110024

www.radiophony.com www.holisticit.com www.indataportal.com

 

 

 

Q         When did the trend of Internet censorship in India pick up? Would you say it was the blocking of access to dawn newspaper during the Kargil war or in the real sense it was blocking of yahoo groups in September 2003?

 

A         Please see attachment (pasted below), which needs to be read backwards, for it details events in reverse chronological order. We did take up the matter with Dawn when it came up, but VSNL's blockage of Internet telephony sites predates it. Status of VSNL censorship of IP-telephony sites there has been no change in the situation since August 9, 2001, when the judge gave the following ruling:

 

Septemer 9, 2001Present: Mr.Ashok Aggarwal for the petitioner. None for the respondent CW.4732/98 Rule. Liberty to approach the court for interim directions in case any action similar to that complained of in the writ petition is taken. Liberty is also granted to the petitioner to move an application for early hearing. August 09, 2001 Mukul Mudgal. J.

 

What this means is:

1)         VSNL was pressing for dismissal of the matter, saying, firstly, that the sites talked about in our petition are no longer blocked. And secondly, that Internet telephony is a bad thing -- though I don't understand how that is relevant. In this, the court did not agree with VSNL.

2)         The judge said the court had lots of pressing matters, which I can certainly vouch for. Since this wasn't a pressing matter, he decided to postpone this one, but made it clear that if VSNL again resorted to blocking Internet sites, we could approach the court and have the matter taken up immediately. That is like a Damocles' sword hanging over VSNL. If anyone is aware of any Internet sites that VSNL blocks, please let me know, mail me The attitude of VSNL is curious -- even at this hearing, their lawyer went on and on telling the judge how terrible a thing Internet telephony was, until my lawyer interrupted and said that had nothing to do with the matter at hand.

 

On September 13, 1999, when VSNL Response to Arun Mehta's Petition on Net censorship was filed. On February 18, 1999, Justice C.M. Nayar passed the following order (VSNL has still not filed a response to our petition as of April 25, 1999): C.W. No. 4732/98 7 C.M. No. 9597/98 The learned counsel for respondent seeks further time to file reply. Let the same be filed within four weeks. Rejoinder, if any, shall be filed within four weeks thereafter. List on May 18, 1999.

 

On December 9, 1998, the matter did not come up for hearing today, but VSNL's lawyer told us that the sites Vocaltec (http://www.vocaltec.com/) Web Phone (http://www.NetSpeak.com/). Net2Phone (http://www.Net2phone.com) aren't blocked any more! Nor are any other sites that we are aware of -- if you come across any, do let us know. However: Position as of November 1998: The site http://www.cultdeadcow.com is blocked. We have learnt that the site Sense/NET has also been blocked. I have filed a petition in the High Court asking VSNL to lift its censorship of Internet sites, provide a list of sites so banned, and other clarifications.

 

The censorship hasn't stopped yet. Not only web access, but also even mail is affected! I received the following replies from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India: May 13, 1998:

 

This is with reference to your letters dated 11th March and 2nd April, 1998 and this office letter of even number dated the 7th April, 1998 regarding VSNL ban on Internet telephony / blocking of access to websites providing information on Internet based voice applications. In the above context, I am directed to advise that TRAI is seized of the issue related to voice telephony on Internet and is actively engaged in an exercise to look into all the issues associated with Internet. It may however be noted the TRAI has no jurisdiction over the content on Internet.

(Anit Kaur Gill) Under Secretary (Tech)

 

Mr. Arun Mehta B-69, Lajpat Nagar - I New Delhi - 110024 April 7, 1998

Sir,

Please refer to your letter dated March 11, 1998 and E-Mail message dated March 20, 1998 regarding VSNL ban on Internet telephony/conference. I am directed to say that the matter is under examination. In its communication to this Authority, VSNL had claimed that in accordance with its terms and conditions on GIAS services and Indian Telegraph Act 1885, Internet telephony was banned, and VSNL advised its customers to desist from using telephony services on the Internet. In the context of issues raised in your aforesaid letter, this Authority has asked for additional information from the VSNL. Yours faithfully

(Mrs. Anit Kaur Gill) Under Secretary (Technical)


The sites that we know of so far that aren't accessible to anybody via a VSNL Internet connection are: Vocaltec (http://www.vocaltec.com/) Web Phone (http://www.NetSpeak.com/). Net2Phone (http://www.Net2phone.com) The VSNL routers block access to these sites, as a result, it is impossible to even send mail to them in the usual fashion -- we need to open a mail account in the US, and send mail from there. For those who understand what this means, hear is a trace route from my machine to www.vocaltec.com which shows that VSNL's routers are at fault: Initiating trace...

1 RTT: 150 ms, 202.54.15.27

2 RTT: 330 ms, 202.54.15.5

3 RTT: 320 ms, 202.54.15.17

4 RTT: 2073 ms, 202.54.2.54 bmvsb_del_512k.pppmad.vsnl.net.in

5 RTT: 741 ms, 202.54.1.28 MCI-2MB.bom.vsnl.net.in Destination is unreachable!

 

In response to our protests we have received the following messages from VSNL:

1.         From the Help Desk

2.         Date: Wed, 1 Apr 1998 10:38:25 +0500 (GMT+0500) From: HELPDESK NEW DELHI <helpdesk@giasdl01.vsnl.net.in> To: Arun Mehta <amehta@giasdl01.vsnl.net.in> Subject: Re: unable to access http://www.vocaltec.com/ sir, this site is not accessible from VSNL

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

With Warm Regards, Helpdesk, GIAS, New Delhi. Mail me at: helpdesk@giasdl01.vsnl.net.in Contact No.: 91-11-3747310,3361111 Extn. 5315

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

On Mon, 30 Mar 1998, Arun Mehta wrote: I wrote the following to you this morning. Subsequently, I also spoke to Mr. Janardhan on the subject. On second thoughts, this does not seem to be a dns problem, because the address does resolve. It's just that the page won't download. It is not a temporary problem, as Mr. Janardhan seemed to suggest. I've been trying for several days now. Arun

 

There seems to be a problem with your dns again. I am unable to access the above URL from here, though if I telnet to an American account, I can access it from there. Please fix the problem URGENTLY.

 

Arun Mehta, B-69, Lajpat Nagar-I, New Delhi-110024. Phone 6841172 http://www.cerfnet.com/~amehta amehta@cerfnet.com, amehta@cpsr.org

 

3.From the General Manager, Internet Services, Bombay Date: Sun, 5 Apr 1998 16:36:40 +0530 (IST) From: Neeraj Sonker <neeraj@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in> To: Arun Mehta <amehta@giasdl01.vsnl.net.in> Subject: Re: unable to access http://www.vocaltec.com/ hello! Mr. Mehta, as part of contract terms and conditions, we don't encourage voice over IP. Regards

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Neeraj Sonker Tel: 91 22 2624020 Extn 2167 Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd Fax: 91 22 2624070

2 MG Road, Fort Bombay - 400 001

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Q         As far as my knowledge goes, a yahoo e-group and hinduunity.org cannot accessed from India via any of the ISP. Is that correct? There are international reports that because of banning of hinduunity.org by Mumbai police other sites on the same IP address too cannot be accessed from here in India. How harmful has been such collateral blocking of sites?

 

A         I can find out about collateral blocking -- if you like I will forward this to my list india-gii, where this matter was discussed some time ago.

 

The main effect of such blockage is that a lot more people visit the site than otherwise would, i.e. such censorship is counter productive.

 

Q         Can you tell me how the government goes about implementing the ban on sites? At what stage does the ISP come in?

 

A         Typically gets the routers of the international gateways to declare the corresponding IP addresses unreachable.

 

Q         What are the penalties for non-implementation of the ban decision? Is the monitoring of ban stringent? Are there any cases that you are aware of where the Indian government/enforcement authorities have initiated action against cyber cafe owners/individuals?

 

A         People on india-gii will know.

 

Q         What is the feedback from readers of your columns on the issue of Internet censorship? What about cyber cafe owners? Mumbai police have a huge list of dos and don'ts for each cafe owner; most of them are cursorily implemented. Can such dos' and don'ts be implemented in India or it will give further rise to corruption and to use a Mumbai colloquial word "hafta vasuli"?

 

A         People, who need to, find workarounds, which is why nobody is particularly worked up about it. And yes, the approach of the police is sure to increase corruption.

 

Q         Are you in favour of such Internet censorship in India? Is it necessary and does it work?

 

A         No, no and no.

 

Q         As the World Wide Web gets wider, what scope does Internet censorship have in India? Will technology be able to implement such bans effectively? Can use proxy servers and such other mechanisms circumvent such bans?

 

A         The techies always find ways around such bans, it is the people who aren't clued on who are affected. The people who should be monitoring content are parents, and they should do this for their children, for each family might have different standards. This is not a job for government.

 

Q         Do you feel that the government in India discriminates between Internet and press/electronic media censorship?

 

A         Yes, we have different standards for all kinds of media, and even between Hindi and English content (English movies are censored a lot less stringently than Hindi ones)

 

Q         How does India compare with other countries as far as Internet censorship is concerned?

 

A         It counts among the stupid ones who try, but we do not try as hard as, say, China.

 

Q         Is there a way out as far as Internet censorship is concerned? Or do you think it is a necessary evil? After all, those who are for the ban point out that censorship of certain sites exists even in democratic countries like Australia, U.S.A (albeit pornographic, paedophile sites).

 

A         I think there is no need for Internet censorship. If someone breaks the law -- e.g. defamation -- prosecute him. What is this "even" -- just because Australia does something, must we? If the government were to adopt this standard universally it would be a different matter (take for example right to information, transparency in policy-making), but adopting what you find to be a good excuse for authoritarianism is not on.

 

Q         What role do you see for the Indian media and intellectuals like you when it comes to combating Internet censorship in India?

 

A         Keep an eye open, inform the media, take action where warranted.

 

 

Interview with Harsh Kapoor

Activist, IT Trend Essayer

 

Q         When did the trend of Internet censorship in India start? Would you say it was the blocking of access to dawn newspaper during the Kargil war or in the real sense it was blocking of yahoo groups in September 2003? Or was it earlier?

 

A         Trend is a loaded term and would require a whole series of parameters and patterns need to be studied for it to qualify as that. Density of Internet (and even computer use) use is still pretty low in India, but much has changed in the last six years. So I would prefer to stick to specific instances and direct and indirect broader attempts by the state restrict and control Internet and electronic data access; 'Censorship' would be a narrow frame to understand, this. Censorship while very important, we have to situate our concerns into a much wider terrain of ongoing surveillance, and control.

 

Practices and experience of state surveillance pre-date the internet in India (as elsewhere) and the specific direct instances of restrictions, control, blockage starting in mid 1999 during the Kargil war when the web site dawn.com was blocked, came despite the absence of an organised codes, rules and rationale for the internet censorship. There were no specific Internet censorship rules or new legal procedures in place at that stage.

 

Older or prior [prior to 1999] practices of varied forms of control, snail -mail interception, censorship rules for electronic or print media, surveillance, wiretapping that had been the prerogative of various agencies and departments till then were the only basis.

 

But the blocking of the high visibility dawn web site, was probably not decided upon advice from any foreign policy circles or media familiar bureaucrats; It came in an ill thought and rushed manner in the context of the hyper charged atmosphere of India's first televised war. If you recall, cable networks transmitting satellite feed of Pakistan TV (PTV) in India had been told to shut down just prior to the blocking order of dawn. The blocking of 'dawn' was implemented by VSNL that was then a largest Indian ISP and since it was government owned, they implemented the 'ban' or blocking right away. I don’t think the smaller other Indian ISPs were involved.

 

So, mid 1999 is a landmark date in history. And it needs to be re-iterated in big bold letters that this act of the state was directly influenced by a military conflict.

 

Prior to 1999 there were other flagrant instances of control for reasons of state, that don’t qualify for censorship but must be taken note of.

 

Lets open the horizons and move away from a narrow idea of 'censorship'. For example, there was no public Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir; Internet Telephony remained banned in India till year 2001, has now been allowed to ISPs and remains restricted (?)  Despite a law suit by spirited citizens. Limited (targeted) and routine, mail interception was certainly in place prior by 1998, this is difficult to enumerate other than thru individual reports from users and archived router tracer reports; Many other things here would need to be studied which have been are being practiced by various agencies in India, targeted interception, retention of web logs and communications data, denial of service attacks, domain blocking, Eavesdropping/Packet Sniffing from unencrypted data streams on a private or a public networks. Unfortunately, since all this too technical for the leverage newspaper reader, or journalist. .  These are non-issues in India.

 

The 2003 blocking of groups.yahoo.com (gym) was clearly the biggest and most flagrant form of Internet censorship ever. This new type of censorship far surpassed the scale of 1999 is an even greater landmark since this came in the aftermath of the 2000 information Technology Act and the setting up of 'CERT-IN' under the aegis of Ministry of Information and Technology.

 

The period 2001 / 2003 many other important developments have taken place with wider implications:

 

Data security act due to pressure from actors in the new economy, seeking secure protocols for electronic transactions and also pressure from foreign firms out - sourcing for data for processing in India.  Security laws e.g. Patriot act in the US covers some of the American companies subcontracting work to India . . .

 

In May 2004 The Delhi High Court has ordered the e-mail service provider, MSN Hotmail, to disclose the details of an unidentified person sending out chain mails

 

Q         As far as my knowledge goes, a yahoo e-group and hinduunity.org cannot accessed from India via any of the ISP. Is that correct? There are international reports that because of banning of hinduunity.org by the Mumbai police, other sites on the same IP address too cannot be accessed from here in India. How harmful has been such collateral blocking of sites?

 

A         The blocking of Yahoo groups seems to been lifted only by certain Indian ISPs, e.g. Asianet; the first of the big providers which said it would lift the ban was VSNL, (which is now privately owned, unlike in 1999); For unexplained reasons it seems VSNL went back on its earlier stance and as on late May 2004 was still blocking the entire domain groups.yahoo.com

 

Dishnet, one of the oldest Indian ISPs continued with the blocking of yahoo groups for nearly 6 months. Continued to prominently display the blocking directive from CERT-IN sent to Indian ISPs on its home page But now Dishnet and Sify are no longer blocking the entire groups.yahoo.com domain; Sancharnet, Icenet- were not directly blocking anyway. They were buying of leasing bandwidth from other ISPs /bandwidth providers like Bharti, VSNL, who had earlier blocked the entire IP address.

 

Yes in deed, VSNL, Dishnet and SIFY are blocking Hindu unity.org;

I don’t know if all Indian ISPs have blocked access:

 

Reports following the Mumbai Police Commissioner's Office order to ISPs in India to block HinduUnity.org, suggest uneven compliance among ISPs; SIFY, initially refused to comply because the order had come from the Mumbai Police Commissioner's Office and not the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN)

 

VSNL, Dishnet and SIFY are denying access to the IP address (67.153.104.163) of HinduUnity.org as opposed to refusing to resolve the domain name itself. This is leading to collateral blocking, two other domains, www.kahane.org/ and www.gwsystems.co.il/ ; they share the same IP address as HinduUnity.org.

[BTW, besides sharing a common IP address and host, there is a 'political alliance' between these three organisations; fundamentalists of the world unite! . . . ]

 

Q         Can you tell me how the government goes about implementing the ban on sites? At what stage does the ISP come in?

 

The ISP comes in after the government issues directives or orders;

 

In the case of gyc blocking there was a ping-pong blame game between Government Agency - ISPs: Cert -in issued the directive and sent it to all ISPs. .  . to comply. The ISP went ahead and blocked the entire damn thing. CERT-IN that was responsible for the directive for the ban later clarified that it was not Yahoo! Groups, but the particular group 'Kynhun', that it wanted the ISPs to block.

ISPs, claim, that due to technical reasons, they could not do the selective blocking and so they went for the blanket blocking of IP addresses for the gyc domain.

 

Some ISPs are continuing only blocking the single group inside groups.yahoo.com.  Icenet, from Gujarat has been only blocking URL of Kynhun and not the IP address for the domain gyc.

 

In the final analysis, it’s the Internet providers that commit the blocking. If the national association of service providers had the will, it could exercise its clout by saying no.

 

But in matters where National security, nationalism and patriotism are invoked, they all buckle.  But now we are living in times when the security is big business.

 

footnote: It isn’t just the state and its military and public sector installations that are becoming a booming market for 'security' [not just physical security providers and security equipment, the business of making 'secure networks'] .

 

Beyond the state, the corporate world is both buying a selling private security services and increasingly turning to manage service providers of network security . . .

 

Q         What are the penalties for non-implementation of the ban decision? Is the monitoring of ban stringent? Are there any cases that you are aware of where the Indian government/enforcement authorities have initiated action against cyber cafe owners/individuals? What rights do private citizens/cafe owners have in case they would want to challenge the law? 

 

A         Check out the web site of Indian Cybercafe Association cyber-cafes.tripod.com/

 

The key areas where the challenge must come from citizens is the issue of 'privacy' and also on as to what exactly constitutes violation whether e.g., cookies or cache files on browsers folders in machines where a user is sitting can be hauled up.

 

Q         What is the feedback from readers of your columns on the issue of Internet censorship? What about cyber cafe owners? Mumbai police have a huge list of dos and don'ts for each cafe owner; most of them are cursorily implemented. Can such dos' and don'ts be implemented in India or it will give further rise to corruption and to use a Mumbai colloquial word "hafta vasuli"?

 

A         Its the same story for nightclubs, PCOs or call booths, they have all faced the police and or the local dadas like anywhere, there is no reason why rules can be improved and or challenged. If there is a collective will and there are associations of Internet users or of cyber cafe walas there is way to set up limits and stave off pressure from the state etc.

 

Q         In Bangalore, there are media reports that police have asked cafe owners to take "digital photos" of each customer. Is this becoming a trend in India? Is there a law that governs the cafe owners? If yes, can you attach it as pdf file or give me a link it on the net?

 

 

A         There is a whole plethora of rules, local and national. Some fall in the purview of police, some from; Center in which deal with data security essentially, besides there is the IT act. Yes there are widespread reports of cyber cafes in India being pressured by authorities to keep a tab on the users. Sure there are the cafe licensing rules, technically they have to get permissions for various (10s of) government offices to become eligible, but these rules are on paper. India is a class society . . . it all depends whose cafe this is and where its located and what its audience. If it’s the Reliance owned Broadband it operates in certain conditions, if it’s the roadside 'internet dhaba' then you know and I know where the rules go. So the business of rules is fairly uneven.

 

Q         Are you in favour of such Internet censorship in India? Is it necessary and does it work?

 

A         When you say India, I suppose you are automatically referring to the state. I want to look beyond.

 

NO, I am not for censorship or silencing. But more for some form of acceptable regulation, best if it’s done by society itself.

 

While we talk of censorship of ideas and content and information on the Internet, we should ponder also on strategies of electronic manipulation, misinformation, falsification and propaganda. And as to how the Internet is being used.

 

The state isn’t the only actor here, in the networked corridors of the internet.

 

Talking of non-state actors, I would like to refer to both the users at large and to the private corporate actors. Commercial content filtering software and also rating/labelling systems are in use both by a percentage of users and some providers. This turns into an issue of take it leave it in a self service society, of self policing and self censorship by users one the one hand or the other as 'in public interest' by America online.

 

Then there is this other major issue of distribution and visibility of information, e.g. if you don’t figure on Google, you seem not to exist.  If search engines cant find you or choose to move you down in their rankings this is also a form of exclusion and denial.

 

Some new innovative and radical thinking has to happen in this area, old forms, and old institutions, old rules wont do. While the Internet is still to really arriving in India, we need to open the discussion on both our rights to communication and to information - content. So while we may say a big no to old style state censorship, lets move on to take the discussion at another level in India.

 

Q         As the World Wide Web gets wider, what scope does Internet censorship have in India? Will technology be able to implement such bans effectively? Can proxy servers and such other mechanisms circumvent such bans? 


A         Sure the bans (filtering of content) can be circumvented quite easily.

 

Q         Do you feel that the government in India discriminates between Internet and press/electronic media censorship? 

 

A         Not quite The blatant hounding out of Tehelka after its revelations is the case in point. Defamation cases, Income tax investigations and cases under the official secrets act killed Tehelka. The arrest of Iftikhar Gilani on charges of his computer containing sensitive material; dated materials available publicly to all on the internet, on Indian military's battle positions during the Kargil area of Kashmir . . . were ludicrous grounds . . . where is the discrimination? It can happen to anyone, BTW the distinction you make between people of the press and Internet has become totally blurred and is untenable.

 

Q         How does India compare with other countries as far as Internet censorship is concerned? 

 

A         India figures somewhere in the middle, fares well when compared to the other authoritarian states, but it all depends what parameters are used here. The post Sept 11 security mania, has been sweeping the planet taking its toll on many of the so-called free societies. India has had incredibly draconian national security and anti terrorist laws for the last 4 decades, any of these can be indirectly invoked even on the virtual and digital terrain.

 

Q         Is there a way out as far as Internet censorship is concerned? Or do you think it is a necessary evil? After all, those who are for the ban, point out that censorship of certain sites exists even in democratic countries like Australia, U.S.A (albeit pornographic, paedophile sites). Where does one than draw the line? 

 

A         Internet is an extension of the public sphere, with all shapes, colours, and sizes . . ..

 

I don’t think censorship is the answer; Plurality of voices is vital; People must have the right to free expression and there should be common ground rules for all. The very open nature of the internet design so far permitted a great amount to democratic expression . . . people must have the right to publish their content. Having said that I certainly don’t put on par free speech and hate speech.

 

But it would be vital that a public spirited democratic model(s) of governance be allowed emerge to regulate this public space, not censorship by the state. For example a system of ethical codes of conduct for ISPs, a charter defining what is 'violative' . . .. Incitement to Violence, preaching of hate, should and can be curtailed, and there can be multiple strategies  . . . that can be developed and opted for. A system like a value chain, or labelling with identifiable imprints should allow and guide people. A people regulated system as opposed to the state.

 

Q         The ban on hindunity.org by Mumbai police came after a private complaint from a small town in Maharashtra and not from the CERT. can local police/state government censor internet in India or is it only CERT that has the powers?

 

A         Who knows the law apart from lawyers? Police can be told to invoke national security, obscenity and you name it. As far as I know when Cert In was set up it was not intended as a certification authority or body meant for surveillance and curbs. To monitor safety of network traffic, issuing of virus alerts etc. But its true the IT act does endow enormous powers to it. So its mandate is matter of interpretation.

 

Police and the various regional authorities/government have for decades been used to exercise the control and command functions, so they continue to play that role pretty much despite other specialized entities being in place. These other enforcement bodies continue to wield power and now in a manner of speaking compete with and complement CERT in.

 

Besides, there is and always has been a major distance between rules and the ground reality.

 

Q         Are there any court cases pending in India as far as Internet censorship is concerned? Does the common man have any legal remedy?

 

A         No there aren’t any current court cases in my knowledge that are directly related to these issues. There was a plan to take the then government to court on the gyc blocking, but I can’t tell you of the current status on that. Common people, as consumers and users, need to speak up . . . and push lawyers to speak up. The blocking of the domain groups.yahoo.com affected thousands of people, some more than 12000 India related groups directly. If court cases had been filed we would stand to gain. Cases need to be filed each time there is curbs, this would create legal precedence.

 

 

Q         What role do you see for the Indian media and activists like you when it comes to combating Internet censorship in India?

 

A         The media has to be constantly on its feet to keep its independence and to speak up for people's rights violations. Without prominent print media speaking up on the dawn ban we wouldn’t have seen the ban lifted. Similarly the big and small media did fervently speak up for the defence of Tehelka.

 

As to Internet content censorship or associated of violations, it is the ethical responsibility of human rights groups to take up the cause. It is very unfortunate that none of India's umpteen human rights groups took up the case of groups.yahoo.com blocking. These groups are it seems out of sink with the any technology related matters and perhaps that’s why they haven’t been forthcoming neither on the computer / internet related issues or on phone tapping covered by the age old Indian Telegraph Act. Even the major national campaign for the right to information has failed on this count to defence of 'communications rights'.

 

India badly needs rights groups working on civil liberties and the Internet in India. Major violations by various agencies of the state take place all the time, in total disregard of citizens rights; More than ever before information technology is becoming central to the ways in which the state manages and organizes its affairs and that in society. Its not just the state; the distributed nature of the internet means personal information on citizens particularly the small class of India's internet users and also the silent majority who have no internet access, their status, bank transactions, insurance records, video surveillance records, telephone records, health information, identity, voter records, land ownership records etc are slowly going on line from being stand alone . . . there is no public debate in India on how privacy be maintained  and peoples freedoms not violated. A national identification records database is in the making, but hardly any discussion on how this can be misused.

 

Mobile phone networks in India are subject to the most dramatic form of snooping. The government can and has access and control over mobile phone network transmission data. The press and the media are not talking and investigating and consumers / users organizations haven’t caught on to such issues.

 

And of course the near banal invocation National security or even VIP security means that an entire network is turned off at points and at times for short duration. No questions asked, it’s the will of 'God' as if when the network goes down.

 

I would like to point at some other important areas in crying need for attention of rights defenders and the media to initiate informed public debate on hidden underside are the use of Geo Location on mobile phones, on the applications of Global Positioning System and the Geographical Information systems, electronic eavesdropping on WIFI networks

 

India is investing 300 million euros in the European Galileo project in designed to do monitoring and surveillance, what's in it for the ordinary citizens?

 

Unless there is an organized lobby of people posing questions on the social and ethical implications of technologies; and challenging both the government and the corporate world before they decide and design structures and information networks it will be mostly a battle to curtail and contain the damage.  We need technically inclined but people friendly voices to speak up and to also create public awareness on these issues. While all this bogus propaganda and hype of our having become the information back office of the world, we lack people taking up the very crucial issues of safeguards on what use information technology and personal data will put to.  India has been spending millions on how to jam communications networks on the Indo Pakistan border where as there could be very practical peaceful applications of making cheap connectivity to rural areas... Internet activists have to create events, interventions, counter content and spaces not just for talking among themselves, on issues of freedom for software ('free software'), but to connect these with wider issues of rights. Build bridges and convince traditional human rights and 'old' media rights groups to work on communications rights and privacy matters in our wired times. Sustained activist noise on the Internet can make a difference; those who claim big resources are needed for this are still in their ivory towers.

 

Related reference URLs:

1. Beat the Indian Govt.Ban on the DAWN Website ! [SACW | 1999]

http://www.sacw.net/kargil/BeattheBAN.html

 

Interview with Kiran Jonnalagadda,

Technology Enthusiast From Bangalore.

http://www.pobox.com/~jace


Q         When did the trend of Internet censorship in India pick up? Would you say it was the blocking of access to dawn newspaper during the Kargil war or in the real sense it was blocking of yahoo groups in September 2003?

 

A         It's been on since much earlier. Back when VSNL was the only provider, they blocked anything they didn't like, particularly VoIP services like Dial pad. VSNL was fairly arbitrary about it. Even today, VSNL is the primary international bandwidth provider for several ISPs. They accidentally blocked Yahoo Groups in June and several people blamed their ISPs for it. I posted to my journal about this; you may want to read the comments for some insight on what happened:

 

http://www.livejournal.com/users/jace/2004/06/27/ http://www.livejournal.com/users/jace/2004/06/28/

 

Q         As far as my knowledge goes, a yahoo e-group and hinduunity.org cannot accessed from India via any of the ISP. Is that correct? There are international reports that because of banning of hinduunity.org by Mumbai police other sites on the same IP address too cannot be accessed from here in India. How harmful has been such collateral blocking of sites?

 

A         The yahoo group blocking is different from the hinduunity.org blocking. Technically different, that is. The simplest way to block a site is to disallow access to its IP address; but this also blocks all other websites hosted on the same IP address. This may or may not be the case with hinduunity.org (I'm not sure).

 

When the kynhun block order came, several ISPs complied by blocking the yahoo groups IP address, and shutting access to all of yahoo groups. After several outraged users complained, they learned to block at the HTTP protocol level, based on the URL. A higher-level block like this is more difficult to implement, and consumes more processing power, so smaller ISPs tend to avoid it if they can (blocking an IP is trivial).

 

Q         Can you tell me how the government goes about implementing the ban on sites? At what stage does the ISP come in?

 

A         Blocking is handled by CERT-IN, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team. This name is in very poor taste considering that the US CERT

(Www.cert.org), which is an association between Carnegie-Mellon University and the US government, is focused on sending alerts of security vulnerabilities in software and hardware connected to the Internet.

 

CERT-IN, in contrast, is merely a tool of the government that issues orders to censor "anti-national" sites.

 

I will forward you a few messages from the India-GII mailing list from late last year that should make this clearer.

 

Q         What are the penalties for non-implementation of the ban decision? Is the monitoring of ban stringent?

 

A         I'm not aware of what the penalties are, but I strongly doubt that CERT-IN has any monitoring capabilities, being entirely comprised of bureaucrats who otherwise have no involvement in Internet technology or policy.

 

Q         Are you in favor of such Internet censorship in India? Is it necessary and does it work?

 

A         Not in favour. It's not necessary and doesn't work. No one knew of the kynhun group until the ban order came. The censorship attempt made them world famous (at least among the anti-censorship and pro-privacy circles), and the group continued to remain accessible via email, Google's cache, caching proxies located outside India, and for the more technically inclined, via HTTP tunnels routed through other servers.

 

Similar fears during the late '90s in the US led to the forming of several censorship-circumvention tools and companies. All of those tools are still usable, and some companies like adjusters (www.adbusters.com) Are still in operation. There were even Indian operations like Sense/NET, operated by Delhi-based General Logic. While the Sense/NET and General Logic websites are offline now, here is a couple of old articles:

 

http://guide.vsnl.net.in/tcpip/columns/censorship/ http://www.rediff.com/computer/1999/feb/20sense.htm

 

Note that in the latter, Priya Ganapati has Ashish Gulhati's age wrong; he was in his early 20s at the time. Priya is also a fairly clued-in reporter familiar with the scene. If you want to talk to any of them directly, here are their email addresses:

 

Priya Ganapati <priyag@rediff.co.in> Ashish Gulhati <hash@netropolis.org> Vipul Ved Prakash <mail@vipul.net> Pawan Jaitly <pawan@generalogic.com> Rishab Aiyar Ghosh <rishab@dxm.org>

 

Q         As the World Wide Web gets wider, what scope does Internet censorship have in India? Will technology be able to implement such bans effectively? Can use proxy servers and such other mechanisms circumvent such bans?

 

A         John Gilmore (http://www.toad.com/gnu/) made the famous statement "The Net treats censorship as damage and routes around it." But he didn't actually say that. He was speaking of Usenet news groups (now accessible via groups.google.com). It doesn't matter though because it's fully applicable to the Net, as we know it today. Check his home page for the full story (search for the quoted string).

 

Q         Do you feel that the government discriminates between Internet and press/electronic media censorship?

 

A         The Internet has largely been unrestricted in this country because

(IMO) the government doesn't understand it. OTOH, monopoly service providers have unfairly restricted competing services, like VSNL blocking VoIP sites. This sort of censorship is more effective because unlike HTTP, proprietary protocols don't have enough circumvention methods.

 

Q         How does India compare with other countries as far as Internet censorship is concerned?

 

A         We're worse off than countries like the US, which take free speech seriously, but we're also much better off than countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia, China and Singapore, which insist everyone in the country browse through a filter. The censorship can circumvent in all these places, as a friend in Dubai confirmed recently, but most of the population is simply unaware.

 

Q         Is there a way out as far as Internet censorship is concerned? Or do you think it is a necessary evil? After all, those who are for the ban point out that censorship of certain sites exists even in democratic countries like Australia, U.S.A (albeit pornographic, pedophile sites).

 

A         I think it's an unnecessary evil. Filtering in an office to "improve productivity" is a company's internal concern. Censoring the whole country's access is different. The government has no business telling citizens how to lead their lives.

 

Our government has taken it on itself to enlighten the unwashed masses and keep them safe from evil influences. I think the age of such elitism is past.

 

I think what we need is a voluntary rating system like the US gaming industry has with ESRB (www.esrb.org). Most porn sites do this already by adding a large bunch of keywords to their page headers that content filtering software can act on.

 

Pedophile sites aren't censored in the US. It's the very hosting that is illegal.

 

Q         What role do you see for the Indian media when it comes to Internet censorship?

 

A         Since the media has a lot to suffer from censorship, it is in their interest to actively oppose it. Unfortunately, there are very few reporters in mainstream media who actually understand technology. The Times of India frequently carries tech articles that give me a giggling fit. (They recently had a piece on putting your PC on a diet, with quotes from several practising users.) When a paper shows such incompetence, anything they say about censorship will be hard to believe.

 

 

 


Interview with Ron Deibert,

Director, Citizen Lab, Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, r.deibert@utoronto.ca

 

Q         when did the trend of internet censorship in India/the world pick up? in India, would  you say it was the blocking of access to dawn newspaper during the kargil war  in 1999 or in the real sense it was blocking of yahoogroups in September 2003? three months ago, the Mumbai police also unilaterally banned access to another site called www.hindunity.org. what has been the perception in the international internet community as far as Indian internet is concerned?

 

A         I can't really speak about general censorship in the case of India, just that with respect to the Internet.  I think that the way in which India has gone about censorship of the Internet is troublesome, as the cases of both yahoo groups and hindu unity illustrate.  The filtering of these sites was heavy handed and cumbersome and resulted in excessive and unintentional over-filtering.  I think it illustrates also how difficult it is to censor websites with 100% certainty without collateral filtering.

 

Q         As far as my knowledge goes, a yahoo e-group and hinduunity.org cannot accessed from India via any of the ISP. is that  correct? there are international reports that because of banning of hinduunity.org by Mumbai police  other sites on the same ip address too cannot be accessed from here in India. how harmful has been such collateral blocking of sites?

 

A         That was our report yes.  You should look there for exact details.  Not sure where things stand presently on this as we're not doing tests at this moment.  It is difficult to say how "harmful" this particular collateral blocking has been.  Much depends on whether users were prevented from accing those sites.  What it does show, I think, is the potential to do harm because of collateral blocking.  Certainly in the case of Yahoo groups, there were many people denied access to legitimate discussion groups.

 

Q         Can you tell me how India compares with other democratic countries and totalitarian countries when it comes to internet censorship?

 

A         Well along a spectrum it's not as bad as China or Iran or Saudi Arabia, but not as transparent and accountable as, say, Canada.

 

Q         What is the feed-back from readers of your columns/webs-site about internet censorship, especially India?

 

A         We have had feedback from Indian users who were concerned.  You also may recall we set up a proxy for Indian users of yahoo groups that generated some attention, all of which is very positive and encouraging.

 

Q         Are you in favour of such internet censorship in India or for that matter anywhere? is it necessary and does it work?

 

A         This is a complex question.  Internet censorship may be necessary in some contexts and in particular areas, but there are major problems with the technological implementation of such policies given today's technology, and also it must only be implemented in my mind in a  manner that is completely transparent and democratically accountable.

 

Q         As the world wide web gets more wide, what scope does internet censorship have in the world or for that matter in India? will technology be able to implement such bans effectively? can such bans be circumvented by using proxy servers and such other mechanisms?

 

A         It is a cat and mouse game.  As soon as content filters are put in place, users find a way to circumvent.  However, censorship can be made quite effective if enough resources are expended, such as in the case of China, where there are stiff penalties, tough regulations, and content filtering technologies at all levels, from ISPs to gateways.

 

Q         Have you been in touch with activists in India or for that matter over this issue? what has been the feedback?

 

A         Yes and it's been positive.  We look forward to working with Indian activists in the future in this area.

 

Q         Is there a way out as far as internet censorship is concerned? or do you think it is a necessary evil? after all, those who are for the ban point out that censorship of certain sites exists  even in democratic countries like Australia, USA (albeit pornographic , paedophile sites).

 

A         I imagine there will be times when it is justified, but  see answer to question 6 above.

 


Q         Is internet censorship getting more and more common ? do you see more nations now taking upon themselves to regulate their citizens from accessing the internet?

 

A         Yes it is growing worldwide.

 

Q         What role do you see for the Indian/international media  and activists when it comes to internet censorship? can a common platform be evolved to fight censorship?

 

A         Citizens around the world must be vigilant in order to keep a "watch on the watchers" so to speak.  The aim of the OpenNet Initiative is to do precisely this, using advanced technical means of interrogation


Chapter 8

 

Conclusion

 

 

On August 19, some 9 days before I finalized this report, Sarai List carried  an email  “Indian Government had banned e-gov and visionindia” said the email. I checked the veracity of that mail and both the egroups were working fine and could be accessed by public

 

The reason I am writing this is that is not the first time an Indian group has thought that his or her group has been banned. Often Yahoo groups go through technical glitches and at times access to Yahoo groups is not possible because of server or ISP problem

 

Yet, in the last six months, I have seen Indians getting paranoid and yelling the word ban too often. And I do not blame them.

 

Because we have had the two well-known precedents of Kynhun and www.hinduunity.org being arbitrarily banned, a fear psychosis and anxiety grips all the Yahoo Groups moderators and owners and not to mention those who run sites that are activist in nature.

 

Especially vulnerable are those who run groups that can be roughly categorized as intellectual groups, where the subscribers write messages that often question and lambaste the establishment.

 

Yahoo groups and the Internet over a period of time has emerged as a powerful tool in the hands of those who seek information and those who want to disseminate information

 

It is but natural that government the world over would want to monitor if not control the flow of messages and exchange of information

 

Internet censorship in India seen in this context is an evolving phenomenon. What the CERT-IN and the Cyber Crime Cell of Mumbai police have done is set a dangerous trend.

 

Should the government decide what we should read and what we should view on the Internet?  This question cannot be equated with restrictions put on paedophile or sites that advocate crime or death or murder.

 

By all accounts, the Mumbai police had the www.hindunity.org site first banned or access restricted to and then they wrote to the CERT-IN. My fear is that state police in any part of India from Bihar to Gujarat to West Bengal may follow suite, ban access and then post facto get approval.

 

However, I still do not think that the Indian Union government has either the will or the desire to nanny us all the time. We are still not in the league of China or some of the Arabic countries where the government actively monitors and decides what is good on the Internet and what is not.

 

Yet, we in India, i.e. our government have started a trend of censorship. Some would disagree with the word trend and point out that all that has been done so far are isolated cases.

 

I just hope that they are true.  I for one would urge all activists and organizations like Sarai to keep a vigil on the inherent need of the establishment to control.

 

For those who want to access net or sites they will one way or the other. It is the common man out on the street who would be the receiving end.

 

I have spent a lot of time gathering information and putting together of this report. It is a subject that I feel close to. Because not only I am a moderator of one of the largest e-group in India but also as a journalist I have the tendency to question the decisions that establishment takes instead of meekly accepting them

 

I do hope that my report serves as a useful reference tool for Sarai and all the scholars in the future.

 


Chapter 9

 

Annexure

OpenNet Initiative: Bulletin 003

Internet Content Filtering in India: Variations in Compliance and Accuracy

May 27, 2004
Last Updated: May 31, 2004
http://www.opennetinitiative.net/bulletins/003/

Contents:
- Enumeration Results
- Methodology & Limitations
- About the OpenNet Initiative

 

India is among a handful of democratic states that has recently implemented some form of nationwide Internet content filtering regulation. In September 2003, the Indian Ministry of Communications & Information Technology ordered Indian Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block the Yahoo! Group kynhun. In response, many ISPs blocked access to the entire groups.yahoo.com domain, resulting in the collateral blocking of thousands of newsgroups.

 

More recently, an Indian media organization, Rediff.com, reports that the Mumbai Police Commissioner's Office had ordered ISPs in India to block the website HinduUnity.org because of inflammatory anti-Islamic material contained on the website. The report also notes that there is varying compliance among ISPs, with one ISP in particular, SIFY, refusing to comply because the order had come from the Mumbai Police Commissioner's Office and not the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) -- a newly created unit of the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology whose mission is to handle computer-related security incidents.

 

In order to ascertain compliance with the latest order, we connected to the web sites in controversy through remote computers hosted by three ISPs in India: DISHNET, VSNL, and SIFY. Despite being readily accessible from our control location in Canada, the HinduUnity.org website is indeed inaccessible from remote computers hosted on these three ISPs -- including SIFY, which was reported not to have complied with the blocking order because of the dispute over jurisdiction. It is not clear at this time why SIFY is now blocking access to HinduUnity.org.

Our testing also reveals some unusual and unexpected collateral blocking. When our requests were made for HinduUnity.org, a message was displayed indicating that the requested website could not be accessed. Unlike the "block pages" generally delivered by commercial filtering applications, these pages are generic network errors produced by a computer's own browser indicating that a web site could not be reached. This type of error message suggests that the ISPs are complying with the order by denying access to the IP address (67.153.104.163) of HinduUnity.org as opposed to refusing to resolve the domain name itself.

While simple for ISPs to perform, this type of content filtering can also unintentionally block domains sharing the same IP address. Indeed, our testing shows that at least eight* other domains, including http://www.kahane.org/ and http://www.gwsystems.co.il/, are being filtered by the Indian ISPs because they share the same IP address as HinduUnity.org. Of significance is that kahane.org has been designated a "terrorist" website by the United States. It is not clear at this time whether the filtering of kahane.org is intentional or an unintentional by-product of it sharing the same IP address as HinduUnity.org, as appears to be the case with http://www.gwsystems.co.il/. To our knowledge, no order has been issued by any authority in India to block kahane.org.

We also tested the groups.yahoo.com domain as well as the specific Yahoo! Group kynhun to test compliance with the previously issued Ministry of Communications blocking order. We found that of the three ISP we tested, only VSNL -- the largest ISP in India -- continues to block the group. To our knowledge, no contrary order has been issued by CERT-IN or the Ministry of Communications.

Enumeration Results:

Column

Remote Computer

1

Local access attempt

2

DISHNET

3

DISHNET

4

DISHNET

5

VSNL

6

VSNL

7

VSNL

8

SIFY

9

SIFY

10

SIFY

 

High Impact

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

http://groups.yahoo.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kynhun/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.hinduunity.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virtual Hosts

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

http://www.hinduunity.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.gwsystems.co.il/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.kahane.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enumeration Update:

Virtual Hosts

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

http://www.hinduunity.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.gwsystems.co.il/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.kahane.org/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.ipractical.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.jewishwriting.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.judgelefkowitz.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.lawgreenberg.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.positivespace.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.tziporahheller.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Thanks to Seth Finkelstein for providing additional domains hosted on the same IP address as HinduUnity.org.

Legend

URL is accessible both through the local connection and the remote computer.

 

URL is accessible through the local connection but inaccessible through the remote computer, which returned a different HTTP response code.

 

URL is accessible through the local connection but inaccessible through the remote computer due to a network connection error.

 

URL is accessible through the local connection but inaccessible through the remote computer; a block page was positively identified.

 


Methodology & Limitations

In order to enumerate Internet filtering worldwide, we use remote computers located in countries that employ content filtering and blocking practices.

However, there are limitations in content filtering and blocking research. The network connection errors indicative of Internet filtering and blocking are identical to normal errors that can occur during the course of regular Internet traffic routing. Furthermore, the remote computers may return results that are not indicative of overall Internet filtering within a given country -- the results might only indicate filtering taking place within a given ISP.

About the OpenNet Initiative

The OpenNet Initiative is a partnership between the Citizen Lab at the Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, and the Advanced Network Research Group at the Centre for Security in International Society (Cambridge Security Programme), University of Cambridge.

www.opennetinitiative.net


Notes:

[1] Mumbai police gag hinduunity.org
May 26, 2004
http://us.rediff.com/news/2004/may/26hindu.htm

[2] Web Sites Sharing IP Addresses: Prevalence and Significance
Benjamin Edelman
http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/people/edelman/ip-sharing/

[3] Federal Register: October 2, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 191)
http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/14mar20010800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2003/03-25017.htm

[4] Infothought blog
Seth Finkelstein
http://sethf.com/infothought/blog/archives/000622.html

Media Articles

India has far less Internet surveillance and censorship that many other countries in the world. Its society is admirably censorship-resistant.  

 Reprinted from the Hindu, October 12, 2003

Media Matters

 Sevanti Ninan

 ARE we proving to be a fairly censorship-resistant society? If recent experience is anything to go by the answer is both yes and no. The Government often has to retreat with egg on its face when it tries to get repressive, but it does not give up trying. And the vocal opposition comes from a small, media-promoted minority, while Indian society at large remains passive. However, the bottom line is that India has far less censorship than many other societies across the world, and it offers very energetic resistance to each attempt at silencing.

Take the recent attempt to censor documentaries being submitted for the International Film Festival in Mumbai, "Miff2004". It was unprecedented, asking that Indian entries obtain a censor certificate while refraining from applying that requirement to foreign entries. The stipulation was aimed at keeping out films on the Gujarat riots that would have embarrassed the Government. It had documentary film makers up in arms, they got a good press for the boycott by 175 film makers they announced, and embarrassed, the Government quickly withdrew the new requirement.

 

Then came the attempt at Internet censorship through the blocking of a discussion group on the Web. It turned out to be a clumsily executed affair because the Internet Service Providers went beyond the targetted blocking they were asked to do. And it achieved the opposite of what it set out to do because it sent the curious rushing to a little-visited discussion group. Despite being blocked, the page could be accessed through an anonymizer site on the Net whose express purpose is to allow people to circumvent blocks.

 

An organisation in Meghalaya which advocates seccession had set up this group, and the request for blocking it came from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The incident served to advertise that the Government has now got its act together on the issue of blocking websites. There is a procedure in place, with a single authority which will issue instructions. There is a specified list of individuals and organisations from whom the request can come, and a chain of command thereafter. The single authority notified for the purpose is the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), which was created about a year ago, primarily to promote security in cyberspace for government organisations as well as private sector websites. This is its first brush with publicity and it is mortified that it is negative. It sees the blocking chore as a small, peripheral part of its work, which involves issuing advisories on security preparedness, and responding to emergency incidents in cyberspace involving hacking or major virus attacks.

 

The chain of command is that officials from the rank of joint secretary upwards in specified departments and ministries can request CERT-IN to block a site, and the latter has to satisfy itself that a complaint is authentic and the action essential. Then it tells the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to block the website, which in turn issues instructions to all the Internet service providers in the country.

Had the latter quietly blocked this one discussion group, nobody might have noticed.

 

But they had never received such a request before and three of them (Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, Data Access and Sify) wrote back immediately to DoT to say that since their infrastructure made it technically impossible to block just one group they had ("as per your directive") blocked all of Yahoo Groups, thousands of them. Eager compliance that triggered howls of protests, mostly on the Net. Internet service providers (ISP) after all, are more concerned about not losing their licences than about protecting free speech. (For instance, the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited (VSNL) took a day-and-a-half to figure out the precise modification that would be required for the proxy server based server settings for that page.)

 

Censorship does not stay quiet in this country, which is a great thing. Nor does it achieve its objective. See what this attempt did for Kynhun.BriU Hynniewtrep, the Meghalaya discussion group, seeking a separate state for the Khasis. Its membership grew from 25 or so before the censorship, to 214 after it. The year-old group had meandered along unnoticed, with an average of three postings a month. Post ban, it got 23 in four days.

 

Last week the Department of Information Technology summoned the ISPs for a meeting to ask them to make sure that they would not goof up similarly in the future. It said it wanted to see that harrassment to Net users was reduced. Meanwhile a debate has erupted in the press over whether the sections of the IT Act, being cited, actually empower an organisation like CERT-IN to impose censorship by blocking. They don't. But the Government claims inherent powers. Though protest has subsided, the ban on all Yahoo groups continues in some ISPs at the time of writing. BSNL for one, was continuing to block all Yahoo groups. Media vigilance on this issue needs to be revived.

 

One suspects that CERT-IN will be more squeamish about compliance the next time it gets a request to block a site. As it is, this is the first of about 10 blocking requests that it has complied with. Not out of a desire to resist blocking: the others either did not come from the parties specified in the gazette notification, or they concerned cyber squatting, which does not fall within its domain. And the Government needs to review what is the most effective response to rogue sites: there is plenty of advice on this on the Net.

 

Despite some potentially harsh provisions in the Information Technology Act, 2000, India has not see much Internet surveillance or censorship compared to other countries which require ISPs to restrict access to certain kinds of content. Silenced, a new report on Internet censorship, is illuminating for what it tells you about censorship elsewhere. Australia requires Internet service providers by law to block access to material deemed harmful to minors. That includes not just pornography, but also information relating to crime, violence and drugs. In Myanmar it is illegal to own a modem without a licence. Internet access there is restricted to 800 specified international sites, and a few local ones. The United States, some countries in Europe, China, Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa all practice a greater degree of Internet surveillance and/or censorship than India does, though American courts keep striking down restrictive laws that the U.S. Government comes up with.

Our government may well aspire to compete. But vigilant Net users, an abundance of sensation-seeking media and government sensitivity to criticism will hopefully ensure that we will never be as efficient in our censorship as more organised societies are.

Rude encounters with Internet censorship

 

 

An Internet discussion group created by a militant outfit of the Khasi tribe in Meghalaya invited government censorship, which in turn triggered a ban on thousands of Yahoo! Groups.

 

Shivam Vij

 

When one read news reports about Russia forcing Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) to install surveillance equipment, or Burma’s "Cyberspace Warfare Centre" hacking into computers that receive or send forbidden messages, or about the imprisonment of Chinese "cyber-dissidents", or internet censorship in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, one felt very secure about being Indian. Such regressively vulgar things as censorship of the Internet didn’t happen in democratic India. But after 22 September 2003 one has to reconsider that premise.

 

Shock and disbelief awaited Indian netizens who called up their ISPs to find out why they were unable to access the Yahoo! Groups website, http://groups.yahoo.com. They were told that the government had ordered them to block access to it.

 

Yahoo! Groups are a forum on which anyone can start a ‘group’ and use it as a discussion forum or a newsletter or for any group communication. Thousands of Indians subscribe to one yahoo group or another. Apart from pornography, there are Indian yahoo groups on all sorts of things: groups for college alumni and old school pals, groups for cities and states, technical groups for engineers and doctors (like Varun Singh’s Campusology), groups for creative professionals (like Arun Verma’s Creativegarh) and groups that do nothing other than discussing Naipaul or Tagore. There are even a couple of journalism groups (like Chennai-based Subhash Rai’s Indian Online Journalism group). Some Indian websites use Yahoo! Groups to publish their newsletters.

 

There are other such ‘groups’ or mailing lists on the net - like www.topica.com, but they aren’t half as popular as www.groups.yahoo.com. A Google search for the words India yahoo group yields over 12,000 results. So when a Northeastern secessionist group wanted an online presence, the easiest option was a yahoo group which, unlike a website, doesn’t cost a thing and needs no web-designers.

 

The Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC) is a militant outfit of the Khasi tribe in Meghalaya. The group is struggling to transform Meghalaya into an exclusive Khasi province and free it from ‘domination' by the Garo tribe. The outfit, which has close links with the Issak-Muivah faction of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM), is engaged in a militant separatist movement for this purpose. Indian intelligence agencies claim that the HNLC promotes circulation of fake currency notes in Meghalaya at the behest of Pakistani spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). In November 2000 the Indian government had banned the HNLC.

 

On 10 August 2002, the HNLC created a yahoogroup for itself and called it "kynhun · Bri U Hynniewtrep". Yahoo! Groups requires each group to put itself in a category, and the Kynhun group is found under the category of ‘issues and causes’. Each group gets a homepage available to anyone anywhere on the Net, and the Kynhun URL is http://groups.yahoo.com/groups/kynhun. The group seeks to form an independent country — Hynniewtrep.

 

Government sources told the press that the Kynhun yahoo group was blocked because it was "promoting anti-national news and containing material against the government of India and state government of Meghalaya." The government issued orders to hundreds of ISP’s to block this group. However, for want of technology to block just one group, these ISP’s ended up blocking the whole of Yahoo! Groups, thus blocking access to legitimate groups, like the ones named above, as well. They intimated the government about this, but it is not known if the government has explicitly issued orders to block the Yahoo! Group’s domain.

 

The one-year-old Kynhun yahoo group’s homepage now indicates — if you can access it, that is — that it has 82 members and 33 messages, but before the action it had just 25 members and 20 messages. Clearly, the government should know that banning free speech is counter-productive: it only ends up providing free publicity. But more than that, one wonders how a tiny email discussion forum can become a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of the Republic of India. The Kynhun group’s contents are nothing but propaganda, and if it’s false the government should expose it by countering it.

 

One lengthy post, for instance, titled ‘Uranium Mining and Hynniewtrep People’, says: "I want to tell you how I feel about uranium and how the whole nuclear cycle affects our land, our lives, and our traditions." The yahoo group also publishes a fortnightly newsletter.

 

Did the government block the group partly out of embarrassment? Though some of the messages call for independence, many of them are about corruption, police brutality against minorities and lack of public infrastructure.  It also carries messages about the alleged victimisation of minorities in Meghalaya. The HNLC’s objectives include getting rid of Garo tribes and ‘outsiders’ from Meghalaya and forming an exclusive State for Khasis and ‘Hynniewtrep tribes’ who trace their roots to "seven celestial families".

 

The homepage exhorts members to use English in their messages so as to reach a larger audience. Despite this, a lot of the messages use a language not known to this writer. An example:

 

Subject:  katto katne

 

bah kyrmen,

 

nyngkong eh nga iaroh ia ka kynhun ba ka la pynmih ia ki views jong

ka seng ha ka internet. wise decision. i have been searching for ur

website for quite awhile and this group will do just fine.

 

a few questions though :-

 

1. the finance secy of hnlc was arrested just some time back. my

question is ... why only recently? when authorities had sort of known

his whereabouts all along. has the hnlc, in any way, found disfavour

in the lapang govt.

 

2. it seems the hynniewtrep mafia is just a creation of police and

shillong times. yes, there may be deserters, but i don't think a riew

ieit-ri would corrupt the name hynniewtrep.

 

3. police are known to be hand in glove in petty crime as well as

high crimes. could u care to throw light on the involvement of mlp

top brass in coal trade.

 

lad phi shem ba ki jingkylli jong nga ki long too frank, ngan

sngewthuh lada phi refuse ban post ia ka ha ka group message. u could

send me a mail though.

 

khublei. wat duh jingkyrmen. ka jingialeh ka don bun rukom.

 

khla-wait stad-pyrkhat

 

Had it not been for this fuss creating by the government order, this group would not have received the kind of attention that it is now receiving. The ban has made many curious to find out what this controversial group is about. I, for one, asked a friend abroad to access the group and send me its messages. But the entire blocking of http://groups.yahoo.com can be circumvented by using ‘anonymiser’ services such as www.anonymizer.com or www.proxify.com. Besides, a Google search for Kynhun can give you access to cached pages where you can read their messages. The Internet is really too vast for governments to stifle voices of dissent like it can in the real world. Even if the government makes it difficult for Kynhun yahoo group to continue its activities, the secessionist militant group can find another free email list.

 

We do have the precedent of the government banning the online edition of Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper during the Kargil war in 1999, but does the Yahoo! Group’s case portends greater Internet censorship in India? In 2000, Parliament passed the Information Technology Act which does not give the government the power to censor online content. But through the Act the government created a body called CERT-IN: the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, which comes under the Department of Information Technology. This organisation became functional two months ago — in July 2003 — and one of CERT-IN’s jobs is to ensure "balanced flow of information", which is apparently a euphemism for blocking websites. Their first accomplishment is the Kynhun trophy, which has, wittingly or unwittingly, inconvenienced thousands of Indian netizens. Now that we have a bunch of bureaucrats paid to block websites, we can expect more of this.

 

Organisations like CERT-IN exist in many countries, but they don’t perform the function of political censorship. They stick to dealing with hackings and things like "W32/Blaster worm taking advantage of Buffer Overrun In RPC Interface", which, by the way, are CERT-IN’s other functions.

 

Before blocking Yahoo! Groups the government should have told Yahoo! about it. The government says it did. A government statement said: "The representatives of Yahoo! in India were requested to remove the objectionable material from the reference, however they declined to comply with the request." The Hindustan Times, however, quoted a Yahoo! India spokesperson as saying that they had not been approached. In any case, the Yahoo! Groups site comes under their parent company in the US, and Yahoo! India as such has no control over it.

 

The upsurge of protest against the move on the Internet is obviously not as much out of concern for Kynhun’s right to freedom of speech as out of the inconvenience caused to users of other Indian Yahoo! Groups. Moderators of some of this Yahoo! Groups have been writing to newspapers and circulating online appeals. "This is a violation of freedom of _expression and sets a dangerous precedent of censorship and control over the Internet in India," said Paris-based Harsh Kapoor of the South Asia Citizens’ Web in one such message. He says he is surprised why human rights activists in India haven’t got their act together on this issue.

 

About whether the Kynhun group itself should be blocked or not, the issue is not settled amongst netizens. Bombay-based media analyst Pradyuman Maheshwari commented in the Mediaah! Newsletter: "At the cost of sounding like a prude and going against the popular sentiment amongst liberally minded media persons, we would think that Yahoo! must block or delete the anti-India forum that has been set up as a group… If there are laws and they have been imposed, then every Indian enterprise must toe the line. The options are clear. Yahoo! India can contest the decision in the Courts or exit the country."

 

Harsh Kapoor however sees it as a larger issue of civil liberties and rights of Internet users. He says the Internet is a full-fledged extension of the public sphere and public space, and the time has come for rights activists in India to take up these issues and not leave them to techies.

 

 

Shivam Vij runs a yahoogroup called Zest, which you won’t be able to access so long as this ban lasts. Contact: shivamvij@hotmail.com

 

 


KYNHUN AFTER THE BAN.

Here is what one gets to see if anyone tries to access the site from India

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kynhun

 

ForbiddenYou were denied access because:

Access denied by access control list.

Messages on the Kynhun egroup after it was banned in India.

Dear All

 

When I got the news that this Internet group has been blocked http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kynhun , it reflected the  poor judgment of Internet Freedom.

 

We all can agree to disagree. That will give more respect but what the Govt of India perhaps done is to add more fuel to the fire by publicity and blocking the site.

 

I am based in Allahabad in the state of UP. I am not able to have the web access the issues being discussed and perhaps may not be able to relate also. But then I just joined you all and via emails. Lets see that how they can block the emails also too..

 

But the message that the Internet users in India cherish the wonderful freedom that we can just discuss.  We are not in some Pakistan or Taliban to be restricted. Some cynical expert in Delhi may have taken decision would have realized by now that he has chewed more than he can digest..

 

Forgive this Bureaucrat for he knows not what he is doing.

 

Life yet at Internet goes on.

 

I am marking this mail to all concerned including the President of India, PMO office and the Press too for the remedial measures to be taken without delay of removing the Firewall access of this site http://groups.yahoo.com/group/kynhun

 

With best wishes

 

RK Dhanvada

09415216756

Allahabad Internet Users Association

http://in.groups.yahoo.com/group/aiua/

 

From:  "P.J.M." <prakashjm45@y...>
Date:  Thu Sep 25, 2003  3:39 pm
Subject:  Re: Welcome to kynhun

Keep up the Good Fight! Together we will defeat Indian Imperialism and Colonialism!

P.J.M.

http://www.geocities.com/prakashjm45/goa

http://geocities.com/prakashjm45/eih.html

http://geocities.com/prakashjm45/goa/case.html

http://geocities.com/prakashjm45/goa/case.html

Also:

www.FreeGoa.com

www.GoanCauses.com

From:  "tamilmalayalee" <gankai@s...>
Date:  Tue Sep 23, 2003  11:56 pm
Subject:  Open letter to the IT Minister

 


Integrity and Sovereignty of the nation cannot be maintained by censoring information.
It is not the government's prerogative to tell me what I should think
and what I should talk and discuss. It is unfortunate that not
everyone will have the opportunity to make his or her own viewing
decisions.
Am I living in communist China or North Korea???
This is India for heavens sake.


Does the government thinks that by banning an online group the people
would disappear? They would just form the group elsewhere.
And BJP should know that. How many times where the RSS and VHP banned
and how quickly they morphed into different forms and then
amalgamated to come back alive and healthy to carry on their
thamashas?
Do you actually believe that by closing one yahoo group others would
be scared??? Mr. IT minister you are wrong, Thousands would mushroom.
Thanks to you MR.IT Minister this yahoo group with just 25 members
now have 96 members in just 12 hours.
We are Indians and we were taught to fight back, not simply nod and
fall in line with your autocratic ideas and beliefs

Don't you (the government) see this as an opportunity to actually
have an insight, to read and to understand that group of peoples mind?
Don't discard this as a group of mere 26 people, these are just 26
who have the comfort of an internet access; there must be thousands
of people who share the same feeling. What are you going to do about
them? Gas them? Nuke them and Kill them?
If a group of people is happy that an Indian army officer is killed,
then that is surely a problem. It's really sad. Instead of banning
the groups try to learn why they would think like that, what forced
them to? Why being an Indian they feel like that or why they don't
feel they are Indian at all?
I plead to the government to send a representative to understand the
core of this problem, and not sit thousand miles away and ban a yahoo
group.
It is easy to press the delete key and remember if you keep shutting
peoples views and opinion then we the people will delete you too.
We will do just the way we threw Indira Gandhi away after the
emergency. Aren't you the guys who make fun of the emergency at any
given opportunity?
Isn't freedom of speech my fundamental right? Aren't you being a
dictator by snatching my fundamental right?

I have been a strong supporter of the BJP for years and I am terribly
ashamed that I supported them.
Banning yahoo group, banning condom from AIDS campaign??? I don't
need you to tell me what to think and please STOP teaching me my
culture my values packaged in your narrow views.
Do you (BJP) really care for us?
They promised "Ram Rajya" if THIS is Ram Rajya...then my vote next
time is for Ravan Rajya. (even if its an Italian Ravan)
No more Ram Rajya please we are (liberal) Indians.

The Central government has to wake up and smell the salt, before the
North East becomes a bigger Kashmir.
Kudos to Sify, Indian express and Times of India, for publishing the
news and complete URL for this website.
Shame on you BJP.
Mr. IT minister if you have nothing to do please go clean a computer
or take a yatra. Stop meddling with my affairs, my freedom, and my
speech. Its NOT yours for Grab.

 

From:  "Ganesh Mukti" <ganeshmukti@y...>
Date:  Fri Sep 26, 2003  3:08 pm
Subject:  Invitation

 

 

I understand that the Indian government is trying to block access to
your yahoo group. I invite you to post messages to
india.indymedia.org, an uncensored news service for activists. You
can upload news to the newswire at
http://india.indymedia.org/publish.php3

Ganesh Mukti
Member
India Indymedia Collective

 

From:  Jaume Ollé <jolle@M...>
Date:  Sat Oct 4, 2003  6:00 pm
Subject:  Re: [kynhun] HNLC

 

From Western Europa, solidarity with the strugle for national liberation
against Indian colonialism. I'm Catalan, from near Barcelona. Catalan people
is also opresed by spanish and we know very well that the colonialism mean
Last 11 September in Barcelona, was a nationalistic demonstration and
the flag of HNLC was hoisted togheter other N.E. peoples and movements
flags.
Flag was hand made because has some difficulties for manufacture it, but
many people
asked for what mean this flag and know now this national liberation strugle
that before was fully
unknown.

 

 

 

 

 

Messages on the www.hinduunity.org after the ban

SaffronCrusader
Registered User
(5/14/04 4:23 pm)
Reply

Psec ISP's block hinduunity website in Hyderabad


Friends,
ISP's in Hyderabad have joined the congress led anti-hindu bandwagon by blocking the immensely popular Hindu website hinduunity.org .Shoot off emails to the ISP's that are restricting freedom of expression. I will post all the details of the thugs responsible for this very soon .

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Shambhu:

This only goes to show that we are doing something right and hurting them - our enemies . We shall fight to have the freedom restored.

Edited by: Shiv Shambhu at: 5/14/04 4:34 pm

 

avenkat
Registered User
(5/14/04 5:15 pm)
Reply

This is outrageous


This is really outrageous. Looks like we need to get used to it for the next 5 years. Already a christian is demanding the EC to bar a shiv sena leader from running for elections in India, anywhere, anytime. Not to sound sadistic, next time muslims kick Hindu asses, I will not sympathize with them. Why? Because, these Hindus don't mind getting kicked by mullahs but they can't accept a fellow Hindu from a different caste for what he is.

It's already 72 hrs. and I am still unable to accept it. No election result has given me such a shock as this one is.

 

PuruRajkumar
Registered User
(5/14/04 10:17 pm)
Reply

RE:


The most popular Hindu website is blocked in an Indian city!? I don't know what to say. Congress just won and this. Can u belive what will come in future? I will not surprise if those slaves of Sonia ban all Hindu orgs. like RSS, VHP,........

Guys lets build HINDU UNITY, largest Hindutva resource on the web. lets contact similer minded people who runs Hindutva web sites and bring all under one umbrella .

 

om namaha shivaya
(5/15/04 4:42 am)
Reply

hyd.


I got it verified its not blocked in hyd. yet but since the congress has come to power the options are still open.

 

csjoshi
Registered User
(5/15/04 4:45 am)
Reply

Relax


Hari Om,

We should take advantage of technology. You can use proxy servers or I think we can programm some way to bypass the blacklist.

Can some one try it out?
CSJ

 

SaffronCrusader
Registered User
(5/15/04 5:54 am)
Reply

Re:


HTML Comments are not allowed

 

Trishul
Moderator
(5/15/04 6:01 am)
Reply

Re: Re:


Saudi blocks us. Now a state from our own lands.

 

SaffronCrusader
Registered User
(5/15/04 6:11 am)
Reply

first list of ISP's


HTML Comments are not allowed

 

SaffronCrusader
Registered User
(5/15/04 6:20 am)
Reply

A workaround


Here's a workaround to gain access to our website
Go to this website
www.anonymizer.com & type our url on the top of the screen.Its a web-based anonymous surfing service and on most occassions allows you access to the blocked list.May not work at all places depending on the level of security implemented at the firewall. I have confirmed this kluge to be working atleast with the ISP's in Hyderabad that have blocked our site.

 

SaffronCrusader
Registered User
(5/15/04 6:24 am)
Reply

List of psec ISP's


HTML Comments are not allowed

 

SaffronCrusader
Registered User
(5/15/04 6:26 am)
Reply

List of psec ISPs


I have just confirmed that Hathway , IN Cablenet & HCL Infinet Ltd ISP's have blocked the website.
I'am in the process of checking the site access with other ISP's too.
Not sure if it's the handiwork of these ISP's or their main link VSNL .

Lets do our bit by shooting emails to them & express your outrage
------------------------------------------------------

Hathway :

Tel: 91-40-9623800000.
hydhelpdesk@hathway.net
mail@hathway.net

IN Cablenet :

Mr.R.V.R.Choudhary
Incablenet Services
Tel: (040)7638028 7344749

HCL Infinet Ltd : wecare@hclinfinet.com :

 

IndianFandu1
Registered User
(5/15/04 8:05 am)
Reply

Does this mean our EZ board discussion board is also blocked


Brothers,
does this mean that our EZ board discussion board is also blocked or people in hydrabad can access it.
I think they should be able to access it if they just type in or mark it in favorites.
Most of our activity is on the discussion board so it should not make much difference

Please confirm

Fandu

 

csjoshi
Registered User
(5/15/04 8:23 am)
Reply

Don't Bother


Hari Om,

Those Psecs are not going to listen unless u whack them. So conserve your resources, use alternative ways to access the site.

CSJ

 

savehinduism
Islamic News Forum Moderator
(5/15/04 1:52 pm)
Reply

Re


I noticed this 2 years ago when I used to go to Sify centres to access the web, I was never able to access either HU main page or this message board, then from Satyam's ISP.

But now I don't no about them but for me it is working now I have a BSNL Dialup.

I see signs of HU gaining popularity if we are banned. We can go to the courts file a PIL as to why none of the Jihadi sites are banned but a Hindutva website is blocked inspite of the supreme court ruling on Hindutva. Who knows we will see angry Hindutvaites do things which they never did before. Our detractors better be warned.

 

WestBengal
Registered User
(5/15/04 8:51 pm)
Reply

i agree


yes we should use this to our advantage, if this is true. This is a great way to gain even more publicity for www.hinduunity.org

those in india should take it to court

 

Tiger of Bengal
Registered User
(5/16/04 4:56 am)
Reply

Across the board


Its across the board, not only in H'bad. I got the information on the phone that it is being blocked by the Calcutta uplink of VSNL (and VSNL is the main e-gateway to/from India) as well. I am not sure about other metros.

Welcome to the Christian States of India.

 

SaffronCrusader
Registered User
(5/16/04 5:24 am)
Reply

VSNL is the culprit


I have confirmed that VSNL that provides the link to these players is the culprit.And this was done under BJP's rule.Nothing bizzarre than this.

 

om namaha shivaya
(5/16/04 8:04 am)
Reply

protest


this is outrageous .We as people of india must protest.Ask them to block jehadi sites instead.This can be used to popularize this site.Someone please do something.

 

Kaushik777
Registered User
(5/16/04 11:17 am)
Reply

Go Directly To The Forum.


I am able to go directly to the forum by typing the following address
p081.ezboard.com/fhinduun...mhottopics

Now I am also able to go to the main page by going to
www.anonymizer.com and typing www.hinduunity.org in the box. Thank You Saffron Crusader.

 

Shiv Shambhu
H.U. Senior Advisor
(5/16/04 11:20 am)
Reply

Re: Psec ISP's block hinduunity website in Hyderabad


Thanks to Kaushikji. It helps a lot of other people who may not be aware.

 

lookup123
Registered User
(5/16/04 12:13 pm)
Reply

Alternative means


The site is also blocked in Noida, U.P., however I can access it via p081.ezboard.com/bhinuunity.

 

 

Surya
H.U. Moderator
(5/18/04 9:58 pm)
Reply

Re:


Posted by

ShyamSunder

(5/18/04 9:38 pm)

Hathaway Hyderabad blocking Hindu Unity

From: "hydhelpdesk" <hydhelpdesk@hathway.net>

Dear Sir,

www.hinduunity.org website has been blocked as it contains communally provocative text and images.

As per the below mentioned orders received

O.W. NO.Pulling-Website/CCIC/408/2004.
Office of the
Commissioner of Police,
Brihan Mumbai.
Dated - April 28, 2004.

 

SaffronCrusader
Registered User
(5/19/04 12:24 am)
Reply

Bizarre


Is it the handiwork of the congress-NCP govt in Maharashtra ? Should we guys at HU collectively do something to set things right ?

 

hindusitah
Senior Member
(5/19/04 9:51 am)
Reply

Re: Psec ISP's block hinduunity website in Hyderabad


We have to file a petition or COllect all Anti-Hindu websites and forward to Police commissionar to block them too

 

lookup123
Registered User
(5/19/04 11:34 am)
Reply

Block the leftist news paper and magazine


Shouldn't we first block all the Leftist medias for their evident anti-hindu anf anti-national stance. It just they play it more smartly in the usual pseudointellectual manner. It's the leftist NGO along with their muslims cousines who has dared to do this, because they know hindus, as usual, can't do any thing.

 

lookup123
Registered User
(5/19/04 11:56 am)
Reply

Opportunity


My Hindutva bros should realize here that it's a giagantic opportunity. if we a file a case against it and fight it vehemently over a stretched duration of time this'll help the popularity Hinduunity soar, and will reach out millions of hindus across the country. It's time to defeat the leftist in their own media game.
But off course it needs guts and commitement. Are their hindutva warriors who will go for it. No Guts No Glory.

Jai Hind.

 

Trishul
Moderator
(5/24/04 9:11 pm)
Reply

Re: Psec ISP's block hinduunity website in Hyderabad


Rediff has picked up on this. Some news to follow in the next few days.

 

Proud Bharatiya
(5/25/04 6:03 am)
Reply

here too


I too was not able to access HU main page directly for about 5 days. So i had to go to ezboard page and access the discussion board. But today (25-05-2004) HU main page came up.

 

Shiv Shambhu
H.U. Senior Advisor
(5/25/04 12:17 pm)
Reply

Re: here too


I would suggest all of us who are served by these sulla loving blockers, should boycott their services and go to other servers.

 

Surya
H.U. Moderator
(5/26/04 8:55 am)
Reply

Re:


Mumbai police gag hinduunity.org

Priya Ganapati in Mumbai | May 26, 2004

Key Internet service providers, including Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited, India's largest ISP with more than 800,000 subscribers, have blocked access to a web site, www.hinduunity.org

The web site is run by a Hindu activist from the US, Rohit Vyasmaan, and logs about 17,000 hits a day.

The site has been blocked on the basis of a request from the Mumbai police commissioner's office in a letter sent out to ISPs on April 28.

Sources at the Mumbai police commissioner's office said the directive was issued because the web site published inflammatory material against Islam. Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Dr Satyapal Singh, a decorated officer of the Indian Police Service, authorised the note.

"They will go to great lengths to obliterate Hinduism, Hindu pride and Hindu culture from India," Vyasmaan wrote in an e-mail. "Today HinduUnity.org stands as a major roadblock to anti-Hindu forces. Patriotic Hindu youth are coming together by the power of the Internet and finding the truth behind the dark clouds of misinformation, propaganda and media-controlled brainwashing. HinduUnity.org flourishes as one of the major web sites that promotes Hindu defence, pride and patriotism."

The police commissioner's office countered that the web site was blocked on the basis of a complaint registered against it in Latur, Maharashtra. Details of the complaint are currently unavailable.

VSNL, India's largest ISP, has been quick to implement the request. It has blocked the web site, rendering it inaccessible to subscribers. Despite repeated attempts, VSNL officials were unavailable for comment.

Apart from VSNL, a host of smaller ISPs like Hathway and HCL Infinet also complied with the police request.

But one ISP has stood its ground. Sify, which claims to have 700,000 Internet subscribers, says it has not blocked the web site because the order to do so has not come from the right authority.

"Only CERT has the right to issue such an order," said Sify spokesman David Appasamy. "In case they do, we have no option but to comply. When we got the request from the police commissioner's office, we spoke to them and explained that we could block the site only if the order came from CERT."

CERT, or the Computer Emergency Response Team, which comes under the department of information technology in New Delhi, is the authority for issuing orders to Indian ISPs to block web sites.

In September 2003, CERT issued an order to block a Yahoo! e-group for allegedly carrying anti-India messages.

Sify, meanwhile, has spoken to CERT about the Mumbai police commissioner's request. The ISP has been told that CERT is "processing" the request.

The HinduUnity.org site has faced problems in the past. The site posts messages and content against Muslims in a significant way.

Vyasmaan says he started the web site in March 2000 with the aim of "moulding the minds of young Hindus to take the initiative and responsibility towards a better India by making them completely selfless in their duties towards their motherland."

In 2001, the site's then host in the US, Addr.com, received complaints about the site and shut it down.

The blocking of the web site in India has raised questions about the freedom of expression available online to Indians.

Earlier, the blocking of the Yahoo! e-group raised a furore online.

Last September, the e-group called kynhun was blocked for allegedly carrying anti-national messages.

Kynhun was created by an outfit called the Hynniwytrep, which supposedly represents an ethnic minority in Meghalaya, and it discussed the idea of Meghalaya's secession online.

"This kind of blocking on the Internet does not have much of a point," said Arun Mehta, who runs a mailing list with over 1,000 members that discusses telecom-related issues. "It is just a figleaf. People who want to access the site can continue to do so using a number of means. Anyway, the Net has so much hatespeak in it that blocking just one site won't serve any purpose but to give additional publicity to it."

In 1999, Mehta approached the Delhi high court againt VSNL's decision to block Internet telephony sites and succeeded in getting the block removed. "In my case there was no question of Internet telephony sites offending anyone," Mehta said. "It was a clear-cut case and so we could go to the courts. But there does exist Article 19 of the Constitution that allows for situations in which freedom of expression can be restricted."

Vyasmaan says he is ready to fight the Mumbai police commissioner's move. He plans to file a public interest petition apart from sending petitions to the prime minister, the President, and various government officials.

"We plan to actively seek support from various US and other world organisations," he said. "It is a direct gag order to silence the Hindu voice in India. It is a fact that the dictatorial regime in Saudi Arabia blocks HinduUnity.org, but to even foresee Internet service providers in our democratic nation is an insult to every citizen of India as well anyone who believes in basic human rights."

http://in.rediff.com/news/2004/may/26hindu.htm

 

Surya
H.U. Moderator
(5/26/04 9:06 am)
Reply

Re:


To IndianFandu,

We posted the Rediff report at the same time; after seeing your post, I wanted to delete mine but accidentally deleted yours.

I am sorry; please post again; I will delete my post.

- surya

 

IndianFandu1
Registered User
(5/26/04 9:15 am)
Reply

I think Every one should still be able to access EZ board


Surya Bhai,
Thats fine.

I think every one in India should still be able to access our Discussion Board by just typing the below link in their address bar

p081.ezboard.com/fhinduun...mhottopics

 

Saffron Man
Registered User
(5/26/04 9:16 am)
Reply

heheheh



This is exactly the Notorious reputation we need because this is what attracts the type of Hindus we need to cause a Hindutva revolution..So basically the morons are giving some good pubilicty to the site !!

 

Surya
H.U. Moderator
(5/26/04 9:25 am)
Reply

Re:


To all users,

Please go the following link and post your views on the Rediff report.

mboard.rediff.com/board/p...may26hindu

- Surya

 

IndianFandu1
Registered User
(5/26/04 9:30 am)
Reply

VSNL is the main culprit


Start to bombard VSNL with emails to lift the Ban

customerservice@vsnl.co.in

 

HinduHelper
Registered User
(5/26/04 10:43 am)
Reply

Good work.


Damn I am proud of you Rohit Vyasmaan. May I meet you in a temple, shake your hand. 17,000 hits a day is great progress.

Edited by: Surya at: 5/26/04 10:44 am

 

vter
Registered User
(5/26/04 1:01 pm)
Reply

Problem


Is this a possible solution? Register many different domain names and have them all point to this site. A few can be blocked as they catch them, but not all. Register different names that will catch the attention of the audience you seek.

I've seen this done elsewhere and when one was blocked, users would just use another url to get in.

 

savehinduism
Islamic News Forum Moderator
(5/26/04 1:42 pm)
Reply

Just pass the Rediff news to all E-mail ID's you have



You can add something like this at the end of the email.

PASS THIS ON HELP THE HINDU CAUSE.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU SPEAK THE TRUTH.

THIS IS THE LAND WHICH TAKES PRIDE IN SAYING "Satyameva Jayete".

Just have a look at what we speak for and against and why !! p081.ezboard.com/fhinduun...mhottopics

Ignorance may be bliss, but it is shortlived bliss. Know the truth enlighten yourself and visit HinduUnity.org

 

Surya
H.U. Moderator
(5/26/04 2:51 pm)
Reply

Re:


Hindu website blocked following complaints by police

Wednesday, May 26 2004

Mumbai: Internet service and gateway provider Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL) has blocked access to a website, run by a Hindu activist from London, following a request from Mumbai Police.

The site www.hinduunity.org run by Rohit Vyaasman, which clocked over 17,000 hits per day was blocked after a request from Government, including one from the Mumbai Police Commissioner's office, VSNL sources told reporters in Mumbai tonight (May 26, 2004).

Confirming the move, sources in Mumbai Police Commissioner's office said they had sent a letter earlier, authorised by Joint Commissioner of Police (crime) Dr Satyapal Singh.

The police sources said the site had published anti-Muslim content, which was the reason for blocking the portal, and added that requests were sent out based on complaints from certain parts of Maharashtra, including Latur.

The specific details of the complaint, except that it hurts Islamic sentiments, were not available and attempts to contact Vyasmaan proved futile.

Apart from VSNL, ISPs like Hathway and HCL Infinet are also believed to have compiled with the request to block the site.

news.indiainfo.com/2004/0...5vsnl.html

 

Show em
Registered User
(5/26/04 6:10 pm)
Reply

What about Mirror sites


Hi ,
I came to know about this movement only after I read that it is blocked ... So I think this can be used as an advantage for us I think.

What do you think of having mirrors of this site and forcing them to block all of them.... This way there is no way that they can block all the mirrors as new mirrors can be setup as soon as old is blocked.

 

M Biswas
Registered User
(5/26/04 7:03 pm)
Reply

Re:


I reccomend one uses an anonymizer.

anon.inf.tu-dresden.de/index_en.html

Spread the word. Down with censorship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annexures

 

Convergence Bill

 

Internet And Athoritarian Regimes

 

Silenced

 

When The New Goes Silent And Dark

 

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