There's no doubt that the Indian government's recent crack-down on the Internet has caused massive outrage. The major issue that many felt was that the government was not transparent and used the North-east exodus to block a lot of content without giving proper warnings to any of the parties involved.
Now Pranesh Prakash, programme manager at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) in Bangalore has done a detailed analysis of all online content that was blocked, arguing that the government did a terrible job in its handling of the issue. You can read his excellent analysis here.
So what are the key points Prakash is highlighting in the post?
First he does us all a favour by giving us a clear number of blocked sites,a piece of information that had been hitherto unclear:
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.
What is not clear is on what basis the Indian government decided to block certain websites or pages. The criteria used is not clear and content uploaders/hosting sites were not given any warning or prior notice as would be customary under the Information Technology Act.
As Prakash argues: Importantly, even though many of the items on that list are repugnant and do deserve (in my opinion) to be removed, ordering ISPs to block them is largely ineffectual. The people and companies hosting the material should have been asked to remove it, instead of ordering Internet service providers (ISPs) to block them.
What Prakash's post brings to light is how the government was caught off-guard about the content and once it realised there was a problem, it decided to go for the bomb all approach rather than carrying out a systematic check of how to bring the situation under control. Instead of choosing social networking to dispell the rumours, the government went for the optimal and least effective solution: banning whatever they deemed was offensive.
Some of the URL's that were blocked were:
Published Date: Aug 23, 2012 01:46 pm | Updated Date: Aug 23, 2012 02:18 pm