Has the Indian government’s crackdown on Twitter just got bigger? NDTV is reporting that Airtel has joined in with the government and has blocked the short-link url for YouTube, youtu.be.
Users who tried to access videos using the link Youtu.be received this message:
This website/URL has been block until further notice either pursuant to Court Orders or on the Directions issued by the Department of Telecommunications.
Youtu.be domain is used as a short-URL service for the complete site. The short url is used typically while sharing on Facebook and Twitter. The Airtel ban is thus effective way of ensuring that users can’t share videos on Twitter or Facebook.
And if that were not enough, it turns out that Airtel’s ban also extends to key-words filtering. According to LabNol.Org: They have implemented keyboard based URL filtering and are blocking all web pages that contain youtu.be anywhere in the URL. For instance, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youtu.be is blocked and so is labnol.org/what-is-youtu.be (a non-existent page).
Is this an instance of Airtel being overzealous in their interpretation of the DoT directive? If so, it wouldn’t be the first time that an Indian Internet Service Provider has resorted to wholesale and crude censorship while purportedly ”following court orders”.
In May, a number of Internet Service Providers summarily blocked access to all file and video sharing sites including popular video sharing site Vimeo, in accordance with an order against copyright infringement moved by the makers of the Tamil movie “3″ (better known as the Kolaveri Di movie).
The scarier alternative is that Airtel is doing this under some kind of pressure from the government.
Be as it may however, Airtel is not doing a great job in its clumsy efforts to censor. Airtel users can avoid the ban by typing youtube/watch to see or share a video.
Users on Twitter are already angry with this move on part of Airtel. One user asked if the country was turning into China, which has strict censorship for the Internet. Some tweets are below:
Are we China? India has blocked yout.be but Airtel has gone a step further and implemented keyword based filtering. fb.me/19egpW1UU
— Digital Inspiration (@howto_guides) अगस्त 22, 2012
Is there not a single technically competent person at Airtel who knows how to implement filtering? bit.ly/TTyJey
— Madhu Menon (@madmanweb) अगस्त 22, 2012