Tag Archives: Internet Censorship in India

Lok Sabha committee tells Kapil Sibal to re-examine the Information Technology Rules 2011

SFLC.in has a quick summary:

The Thirty-first Report of the Committee on Subordinate Legislation (2012-2013) was presented in the Lok Sabha today on 21 March, 2013 by Shri P. Karunakaran, Chairman of the Committee.

The Committee examined the following rules:-

(i) The Information Technology (Reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information) Rules, 2011[GSR 313(E)]

(ii) The Information Technology (IntermediariesCommittee Report Guidelines) Rules, 2011[GSR314 (E)]

(iii) The Information Technology (Guidelines for Cyber Cafe) Rules, 2011[GSR315(E)]

(iv) The Information Technology (Electronic Service Delivery) Rules, 2011[GSR316 (E)]

The Committee made the following observations: Continue reading Lok Sabha committee tells Kapil Sibal to re-examine the Information Technology Rules 2011

Arindam Chaudhuri promises to get Kafila page unblocked

The webpage http://kafila.org/2011/06/22/arindam-chaudhuri-silchar has been blocked by Internet Service Providers in India. Some users will see a blank page (like above) and others will see a note that the page has been blocked on the orders of the Department of Telecommunications.

Until Nikhil Pahwa of Medianama.com informed me, I had no clue that  India’s unjust and arbitrary internet censorship regime had finally affected Kafila. Medianama published on Friday 15 February a list of 78 URLs that the Department of Telecommunications had ordered ISPs to block. 73 of them were webpages critical of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), whose Arindam Chaudhuri has a long history of complaining about the Internet. Continue reading Arindam Chaudhuri promises to get Kafila page unblocked

Freedom of speech in India is for the rich and the powerful

While freedom of speech and expression in India is under attack from all sides, have you noticed how the rich and the powerful can say what they like without getting arrested, facing FIRs and courts, hiring lawyers and so on?

While an innocuous tweet or Facebook status update can land you in police lock-up on a Saturday night or Sunday morning 5 am, a Digvijaya Singh can say sexist crap against Rakhi Sawant and get away with it.

Here’s another example from Twitter recently. Lalit Modi of IPL infamy, who wants us to believe his coming to India and facing the law is a security threat to him, tweeted that the BJP’s  Arun Jaitley would lose his deposit if he contested the Lok Sabha seat from Jaipur. (Lalit Modi thinks he’s the Maharaja of Rajasthan.) In response to that, one Ankush Jain replied… Continue reading Freedom of speech in India is for the rich and the powerful

This Troll Has a Very Long Nose

Ironically, the random arrest of people for tweets or Facebook postings made some of us happy—happy that, at last, citizens have started showing concern about internet censorship. But lock-up gates had to clang at night on the faces of a few people before we realised that, in our pompous democracy, the might of the state is Ctrl-Alt-Deleting opinion with such serious zeal. The arrests have been made under Section 66A of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, 2008, notified in October 2009. This section makes punishable with up to three years’ imprisonment anything that is perceived as “grossly offensive” but does not set out the parameters of how to decide on that—even if we were to believe that could at all be done. Questions about these arrests are deflected: the government blames the police, the police says a vague law is the problem, and those who file the complaints that lead to such arrests say that they are free to seek enforcement of an existing law.

Anyone can see that the section is not designed to nudge a case towards a conviction verdict. It is designed only to harass. Arrests, courtwork, bail. You are ground down, but the government spokesman is able to say, “The law is taking its own course.” The implication: “Aren’t you grateful you have obtained bail?” But the recent arrests have caused outrage. Taking up a PIL against the section, the Supreme Court had said in December that had it not been filed, it would have taken up the matter anyway. Despite this, the government defended the section in the Rajya Sabha, refusing to repeal it and merely adding guidelines that such arrests should be made by an officer of a higher rank—as if that would make it better.

Read more, here.

Social Media Regulation vs. Suppression of Freedom of Speech: Pranesh Prakash


This morning, there was a short report in the Mumbai Mirror about two girls having been arrested for comments one of them made, and the other ‘liked’, on Facebook about Bal Thackeray:

Police on Sunday arrested a 21-year-old girl for questioning the total shutdown in the city for Bal Thackeray’s funeral on her Facebook account. Another girl who ‘liked’ the comment was also arrested.

The duo were booked under Section 295 (a) of the IPC (for hurting religious sentiments) and Section 64 (a) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. Though the girl withdrew her comment and apologised, a mob of some 2,000 Shiv Sena workers attacked and ransacked her uncle’s orthopaedic clinic at Palghar.

“Her comment said people like Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that,” said PI Uttam Sonawane.

What provisions of law were used?

There’s a small mistake in Mumbai Mirror‘s reportage as there is no section “64(a)”1 in the Information Technology (IT) Act, nor a section “295(a)” in the Indian Penal Code (IPC). They must have meant section 295A of the IPC (“outraging religious feelings of any class”) and section 66A of the IT Act (“sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.”). The Wall Street Journal’s Shreya Shah has confirmed that the second provision was section 66A of the IT Act.

Section 295A of the IPC is cognizable and non-bailable, and hence the police have the powers to arrest a person accused of this without a warrant.2 Section 66A of the IT Act is cognizable and bailable. Some news sources claim that section 505(2) of the IPC (“Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes”) has also been invoked.

This is clearly a case of misapplication of s.295A of the IPC.3 This provision has been frivolously used numerous times in Maharashtra. Even the banning of James Laine’s book Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India happened under s.295A, and the ban was subsequently held to have been unlawful by both the Bombay High Court as well as the Supreme Court. Indeed, s.295A has not been applied in cases where it is more apparent, making this seem like a parody news report. Continue reading Social Media Regulation vs. Suppression of Freedom of Speech: Pranesh Prakash

Quietly censors the nanny state: Mishi Choudhary



New Delhi’s Sanchar Bhawan, which houses the office of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology

The recent curbs on social networking websites in India demonstrate the unpredictability of the legal environment, both for businesses and the citizens. Whether its the Government of India’s (GoI) insistence on getting access to corporate emails and text messages sent via BlackBerry devices, or changing stances on “pre-screening” user generated content, the authorities seem to be doing a tap dance around legal issues. The implementation of rules seems surreptitious as they are bent conveniently in the name of “security”. Continue reading Quietly censors the nanny state: Mishi Choudhary

Why is the Indian media building a case for internet censorship rather than against it?

Hundreds of webpages now stand blocked in India, the government has openly been appealing to internet companies to pre- or post-screen content and remove what the government wants it to remove. One Google Transparency Report after another has been revealing how the number one target of the government is criticism of politicians and government. Just imagine what would the Indian media’s response to such censorship have been like had it been hundreds of books or articles we were talking about? Instead of asking Facebook to ‘pre-screen’ our posts, had Kapil Sibal been asking for someone to pre-screen articles in the newspapers, would it not be like the Emergency?

Okay, point taken. Let us not trivialise the Emergency, which entailed jailing of dissidents and forced sterilisation and so on. But still, there’s so much internet censorship in India now that it is surprising that instead of outrage you find the Indian media actually building the case for censorship. What about hate speech, they ask. What about the trolls, Why is there so much abuse on the internet? Continue reading Why is the Indian media building a case for internet censorship rather than against it?

Full text: The Indian government’s recent orders to Internet Service Providers to block websites, webpages and Twitter accounts

Joji Thomas Philip has put out these documents in The Economic Times.

18 August:

19 August: Continue reading Full text: The Indian government’s recent orders to Internet Service Providers to block websites, webpages and Twitter accounts

An Analysis of the Latest Round of Internet Censorship in India (Communalism and Rioting Edition): Pranesh Prakash


How many items have been blocked?

There are a total of 309 specific items (those being URLs, Twitter accounts, img tags, blog posts, blogs, and a handful of websites) that have been blocked. This number is meaningless at one level, given that it doesn’t differentiate between the blocking of an entire website (with dozens or hundreds of web pages) from the blocking of a single webpage. However, given that very few websites have been blocked at the domain-level, that number is still reasonably useful. Continue reading An Analysis of the Latest Round of Internet Censorship in India (Communalism and Rioting Edition): Pranesh Prakash

Open Letter from Anonymous to the Government of India

Dear Government of India,

We are Anonymous. It has come to our attention that you have blocked filesharing websites in India. We also know you are in the process of making a Great Indian Firewall, to censor the internet in India. Anonymous believes, however, that pursuing this direction is a sad mistake on your behalf. Not only does it reveal the fact that you do not seem to understand the present-day political and technological reality, we also take this as a serious declaration of war from yourself, the Indian government, to us, Anonymous, the people. Continue reading Open Letter from Anonymous to the Government of India

“The more they censor the internet the bigger we become” – An interview of Anonymous India

In which I interview “Anonymous India” who have organised a massive protest against internet censorship across 11 Indian cities on 9 June.

Some say such attacks (hacking and defacement of Web sites) could be used by the political class to actually strengthen their argument in favour of control and regulation of the Internet. What do you say to that?

Anamikanon: People on the ground are vulnerable to people with a lot of power and no problems misusing it. Anonymous can’t be found to defame, threaten, suppress, stall…. wrong means? Ok. Worth it.

Netcak3: I say the more they censor the Internet, the bigger we become. We strive in users from across the world. Pro tip: Once an idea has been made, you cannot kill it.

Anamikanon: In my view, these are the means that can be safely used without risking life, limb, careers, reputations, family…

Gummy: Defacing is like posting a nill which is illegal and can be removed. Like people post their advertisement bill (poster) at the back of buses and other public places.

Anamikanon: Except we post it in inside their drawing rooms! [Read the full interview.]

Net Loss: Sajan Venniyoor


Image via dailygalaxy.com

Net: noun, verb.

1. a contrivance of strong thread or cord worked into an open, meshed fabric, for catching fish, birds, or  other animals
2. anything serving to catch or ensnare

The other day, in a Parliamentary debate on Internet Rules 2011, the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said something so absurd that for a moment I thought he had joined the government. “You can control print and electronic media, but not internet,” he said, only removing his foot from his mouth to add, “If internet had been in existence, Emergency would have been a fiasco.”

Actually, if the Emergency had been in existence, the Internet would have been a fiasco. Continue reading Net Loss: Sajan Venniyoor

India asks Google to remove 2 items every 3 days

Google’s just released fourth biannual Transparency Report says that between January and June 2011, India asked it to remove 358 different items from various Google-owned web services such as Orkut and YouTube. Google complied in 51% cases. The requests were made by various central and state government departments through 68 different requests. The fourth such report, it goes against communications minister Kapil Sibal’s claims that internet companies are not willing to “self-regulate”.

Worryingly, the report also confirms the allegations that what bothers government officials the most about the internet is not defamation or hate speech but government criticism. Continue reading India asks Google to remove 2 items every 3 days

(Updated) List of websites blocked in India

Given below is a list of websites blocked in India by one or more Internet Service Providers. This list was hacked from Reliance servers by the hacker group ANONYMOUS, which claimed in a web press conference that while most of this list of 434 is blocked as a result of government or court orders, some have been blocked by Reliance on its own. The ones blocked by Reliance on its own relate to Satish Seth, a Reliance ADAG executive. Continue reading (Updated) List of websites blocked in India

Meet Ashok Kumar the John Doe of India; or The Pirate Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

The internet has been abuzz with  news of all the major ISPs in India blocking popular websites including piratebay, vimeo, dailymotion and pastebin etc. This is pursuant to a Chennai high court order available here and there are a number of unanswered questions about the validity of the blocking of the websites including whether the DOT were entitled to ask for a blocking of the site on the basis of the orders, how the ISPs chose these particular websites since the order itself does not mention any particular website. This is not to mention the larger question of how the last ten years has seen the dubious rise of John Doe orders as preemptive measure against copyright infringement.

For those unfamiliar with John Doe orders, they are ex parte injunctions ordered against unknown persons. Just to put this in context, ex parte injunctions are not the easiest things to obtain since they are based on the denial of  another person’s right to be heard. So even for cases of violence against women getting an ex parte restraining order is not easy. In contrast the last ten years we have seen the ease with which one can obtain these orders for copyright infringement cases. Continue reading Meet Ashok Kumar the John Doe of India; or The Pirate Autobiography of an Unknown Indian

Unpacking India’s Internet Censorship Debate

Recent debates on Internet censorship in India have focused to the allegedly free-for-all nature of the internet. Those of us who have argued against internet censorship have been somewhat misrepresented as arguing for absolute freedom whereby the reasonable restrictions laid down in Article 19 (A) of the Constitution of India don’t apply. Nothing could be farther than the truth.

It has been said that the internet can be used to incite violence, particularly inter-communal violence, and there needs to be a mechanism to prevent that. Communications minister Kapil Sibal wants internet giants to “self-regulate” for this reason, denying that he wants to censor political dissent on the internet. Following on the heels of his expression of such concern in December 2011, Mufti Aijaz Arshad Qasmi and journalist Vinay Rai filed cases against various internet companies for similar material that is religiously offensive.It needs to be pointed out, however, that the cases filed by Qasmi and Rai are under the Indian Penal Code and do not even invoke the Information Technology Act. So if the Indian Penal Code can be used against religiously offensive material why do we need any new mechanism to “regulate” or even “self-regulate” the internet? Continue reading Unpacking India’s Internet Censorship Debate

Freedom in the Cage: Photos from a protest against internet censorship in Delhi

These photographs were taken at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on Sunday, 22 April, by MUKUL DUBE. This protest was organised by the Aseem Trivedi led Save Your Voice campaign against India’s IT Rules 2011 that, as has been explained earlier on this blog, are a set of procedures that are already causing internet censorship in India bypassing the right to legal remedy and natural justice. Trivedi’s website, http://www.cartoonsagainstcorruption.com, was taken down by its domain registrar and he was not even informed in advance, thanks to these rules. The Rajya Sabha, upper house of the Indian Parliament, will debate these rules any time between 24 April and 9 May. You can urge all Rajya Sabha MPs to vote for the motion in a petition here or write directly to Rajya Sabha MPs from your state, in just a few clicks, here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What’s up with India’s IT Rules?


The IT Rules of 2011 will come up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha very soon under an annulment motion.

Urge all Rajya Sabha MPs to vote for the motion in a petition here or write directly to Rajya Sabha MPs from your state, in just a few clicks, here.

Here’s an FAQ on the IT Rules by SFLC.in and here’s an analysis of the rules by PRS Legislative Research.

Rajya Sabha to consider repealing Kapil Sibal’s IT Rules

When the Parliament’s budget session re-opens on April 24, the Rajya Sabha will vote on an annulment motion against the IT Rules promulgated in April 2011 that provide for “intermediaries” to remove the online content they are asked to by anyone. The motion has been moved by P Rajeeve, Rajya Sabha member from the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

Speaking on the phone from Thrissur, Rajeeve said, “The IT Rules go against the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution and against the principles of natural justice which are the foundation of our criminal justice system. The rules ask intermediaries to remove content without giving the content owner an opportunity to defend it. They will cause private censorship.”

The Left parties have decided to back the motion and efforts are on to mobilise members of Parliament across party lines. If the motion is accepted by the Rajya Sabha, it will be sent to the Lok Sabha, probably in the monsoon session. Continue reading Rajya Sabha to consider repealing Kapil Sibal’s IT Rules

Support the annulment of IT Rules 2011, protect internet freedom in India

Given below is the text of a petition put out by SFLC.in. You can sign it here. Do urge others to sign it too. Please also consider writing directly to your or any or all Members of Parliament urging them to annul IT Rules 2011. You can read SFLC.in’s very brief primer on the IT Rules here. The web address www.IT2011.in also redirects you to the petition page.

Image credit: Aseem Trivedi / saveyourvoice.in. Please consider making this image your Facebook 'cover' picture or Twitter background image or your blog header till the end of April.

Dear Member of Parliament,

The Constitution of India praovides the citizens of this country the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression subject to reasonable restrictions as laid down in the Constitution itself. Now, with the spread of the Internet and the availability of tools like blogs and social networks we are able to enjoy this freedom to the fullest and have a true participatory democracy.

You, as legislators recognised the importance of intermediaries like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Internet Service Providers for e-commerce as well as for free expression, helping us to express ourselves and provided them protection from any legal liability that could arise out of content generated by users. Such a protection provided in the Information Technology Act, 2000 was important for these intermediaries to operate freely without threats of frivolous legal action. Continue reading Support the annulment of IT Rules 2011, protect internet freedom in India