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Websites blocked: 5 worrying points raised by the latest round of GOI blockages

Websites blocked: 5 worrying points raised by the latest round of GOI blockages

Websites blocked: 5 worrying points raised by the latest round of GOI blockages

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It has now been confirmed that the government is in fact blocking websites in India, including video sharing sites like Vimeo and DailyMotion, as well as other research and programming focused sites like GitHub, Pastebin and SourceForge. Some of these sites have started to be unblocked now, but many remain inaccessible. The whole episode raises eyebrows, and the government’s latest communication does little to inspire confidence.

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The previous government had extremely excessive blocking of websites in India, and in 2013 the government had blocked 254 URLs. He has been rightly criticized for this excessive behavior by many media outlets and also by the opposition – the BJP is currently in power, but seems to be following the precedent set by the previous government, if this large scale bloc of entire websites is considered as any indication. Here are some of the things we find concerning:

  1. Inconsistency in the information revealed: the GDP statement indicates that the additional director general of the police, Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS), Mumbai requested the blocking of 32 websites on November 15; however, he adds that the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate also issued the order on November 10 for the blocking of these 32 websites on an urgent basis – in other words, the court issued the order to block the sites before to receive a request from the ATS?

  2. On Wednesday, some sites were still opening on different networks; Thursday, other sites were blocked. Pastebin, for example, is no longer opening, as more and more ISPs are starting to follow the ban now. If the order was indeed issued more than a month ago, why haven’t all ISPs implemented it yet? Is there more than meets the eye?

  3. The fact that these orders were carried out in secret – the original list of blocked websites was not released by the ministry – is a serious concern. What is even more confusing is that the national head of the BJP’s IT cell, Arvind Gupta, was the only person to share information on this issue.

    Even before the news broke, Gupta was tweeting about the blocks as a national security issue and specifically naming the ATS in a tweet. Why was the only information reaching the public coming from an unofficial source?

  4. Besides, if the information was so sensitive that the public could not be told about it, then why was Gupta aware of this information? While the BJP is the ruling party, Gupta is a BJP official who does not hold any position in government. If the information was shared with Gupta, why was there no official announcement long after the order to block the sites was made public?

  5. The final – and perhaps most disturbing – issue is the fact that the court agreed to block entire websites – not individual web pages – to remove “objectionable content”. The sites were apparently blocked because they were used to post anti-Indian and jihadist materials; however, given the ease with which people can communicate anonymously on the Internet, shutting down a small handful of forums to prevent illegal communications is like trying to stop a dam from bursting with band-aids.

Plus, if blocking anonymous content was the real reason, then why not block sites like Gmail or Twitter? There is no verification process to create an email id, and that’s all you need to create a social media account. The arbitrary and secretive nature of such large-scale blocking should be of serious concern to any citizen, as the services you rely on for your daily activities could be blocked on a whim.

At a time when people desperately hope that their government will take a reasonable stance on the issue of net neutrality, it is extremely disturbing to see the courts issuing blanket bans against websites – it indicates a lack of understanding of the internet and can’t help but shake confidence in government. These are complex issues that need to be addressed in a structured way, and knee-jerk actions like this ban should be avoided at all costs, while bringing greater transparency so that people in the country can at least know when a website is banned. . , and why. The internet can be a powerful tool that empowers the nation – the government has said it many times, and now is the time to stick to its words.

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