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<nettime> Net censorship in India
Tapas Ray on Fri, 1 Aug 2003 18:46:18 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Net censorship in India

Good morning. I have been lurking for some time. Saw a story this morning,
which worries me. Would like to share it with you.


Net policing comes to India


MUMBAI: The thought police is gearing up to storm the virtual world. In what
appears to be its first serious attempt to monitor the Internet, the
Government of India has outlined an official procedure for blocking

An order issued by the department of information technology on July 7
enables a bunch of bureaucrats to decide the websites Indian surfers are
allowed to access.

''This is the first formal step towards Internet censorship in Indian law,''
warns Somasekhar Sundaresan, a lawyer who specialises in technology issues.
''The order provides the State with sweeping powers to police Internet
content. For example, news breaks such as those in Tehelka.com can simply be
blocked by the government using these powers.''

Interestingly, the Information Technology Act, 2000, only provides for the
blocking of pornographic websites and the monitoring of websites which
endanger public order, the integrity and security of the nation and
relations with other countries.

But the new diktat goes a few steps further - permitting the blacking out of
''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''.

The order - No. GSR529(E) - goes on to add: ''Blocking of such websites may
be equated to balanced flow of information and not censorship.''

Critics, however, point out that much can be accommodated under this
umbrella clause.

According to the order, various agencies - including central and state home
departments, the courts, CBI, IB, police and the chairman of the National
Human Rights Commission - can submit a complaint to the director of Cert-In,
a new organisation which has been set up by the government to address IT
security issues.

This will then be examined by a committee comprising bureaucrats from
Cert-In, the department of information technology and the law or home
ministry. The committee will ''meet and take on the spot decision on whether
the website is to be blocked or not''.

Neither the producers of the website nor those with a contrary point of view
are to be given a hearing.

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