South Asia Censorship News

2019: Jan-March

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India loses its mental balance...

And its all because of the video game: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds


Link Here 25th March 2019
PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG) is a Hunger Games -style competition where 100 players face off with machine guns and assault rifles until only one is left standing. It has become the most popular smartphone game in the world, with enthusiasts from the U.S. to Russia to Malaysia.

And nowhere has resistance to the game been quite like India. Multiple cities have banned PUBG, and police in Western India arrested 10 university students for playing. The national child rights commission has recommended barring the game for its violent nature.

One of India's largest Hindi newspapers declared PUBG an epidemic that turned children into manorogi , or psychopaths . There are dangerous consequences to this game, the Navbharat Times warned in a  editorial, Many children have lost their mental balance.

Local politicians, parents and teachers have expressed outrage over PUBG, arguing the game will spur violence and divert students from their academics. They've blamed the game for bullying, stealing and, in one Mumbai case, a teenager's suicide. A local minister went so far as to characterize it as the demon in every house.

At a public meeting last month, a concerned mother complained to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about her son's addiction to mobile games. Is that the PUBG one? Modi shot back.

 

 

Film makers harassed by censors...

Indian film censors demand that a movie called #MeToo change its title


Link Here 7th March 2019
#MeToo is a 2019 India crime thriller by Harsh Warrdhan (as Harshvardhan) and Harsh Warrdhan.
Starring Ritika Singh, Manish Jhanjholia and Gyan Prakash. IMDb

Recently out on bail and on his way to a hideout, Richie coerces his elder brother, Yash and Mama (Mother's brother) to kidnap a girl. Sakshi, on her way to college, is snatched from a bus stop in the broad daylight. This is a story of one of the 34,768 girls kidnapped every year in India.

Indian film censors from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) have demanded that a film titled #MeToo must change that title before being certified for cinema screening.

Directed by Harsh Warrdhan, #MeToo is 110-minute indie film about a young woman being kidnapped and sexually assaulted in a moving car. Starring National Award-winning actor Ritika Singh, it was shot in Haryana for over a month. The film's makers reportedly applied for a CBFC certificate in October last year. The film was rejected by the CBFC's first tier censors and then by the Revising Committee, the second tier.

Now that the film hasn't been cleared by the CBFC, Warrdhan and the movie's producers have filed a petition against the CBFC at the Delhi High Court on March 6. Shilpi Jain, the lawyer who is representing the filmmakers said:

In the petition we are arguing that the cuts/modifications that have been ordered by CBFC are serious encroachment of the right to speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution of India. Board has missed the central theme of the film. Film deals with a highly sensitive issue and any tampering with respect to the scenes can cripple the narrative.

We had applied for an Adult certificate considering the film has strong language. Even then, the certificate didn't come through.

 

 

Updated: Waging war...

Bangladesh ISPs block porn and gambling on orders or the government .


Link Here 26th February 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in Bangladesh...Internet censors to track down supposed blasphemy
Bangladesh internet censors have blocked almost 20,000 websites as part of an anti-pornography campaign, a minister has reported.

ISPs have blocked pornography and gambling websites in the past week under orders from the telecommunications censor. war, Mustafa Jabbar, the posts and telecommunications minister, told AFP:

I want to create a safe and secure internet for all Bangladeshis, including children. And this is my war against pornography. And this will be a continuous.

Popular social media apps such as TikTok and Bigo - which authorities believe are misused - have also been blocked

Update: And of course the government took the opportunity to ban a few other things too

26th February 2019. See article from dw.com

While most of the blocked sites are foreign, a few local websites and social media platforms have also been targeted by the government censorship. One of these websites, somewhereinblog.net, is the largest Bengali-language community blog platform in the world.

The post and telecommunications minister blamed the site for spreading atheism in Bangladesh.

A group of 33 Bangladeshi university teachers, journalists, bloggers, and activists have demanded that the government lift the ban on the blog platform immediately.

 

 

Stats of shame...

India's film censors release the tallies of films banned


Link Here 19th February 2019
Full story: Banned Movies in India...Sex, religion and easy offence
India's Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has banned a total of 793 films in 16 years.

The information was revealed in response to a request filed by Lucknow-based activist Dr Nutan Thakur. It said that between January 1, 2000 and March 31, 2016, the censor board banned 793 films from public exhibition. These include 586 Indian films and 207 foreign films. These totals were broken down as follows:

  • 11 banned in 2007
  • 10 banned in 2008
  • 9 banned in 2010
  • 82 banned in 2012-13
  • 119 banned in 2013-14
  • 152 banned in 2014-15
  • 153 banned in 2015-16

 

 

Perhaps they were addicted to their research...

Despite a ban on porn doctors in India note a 75% increase in porn viewing and rather simplistically correlate this to an increase in the divorce rate


Link Here 18th February 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in India...India considers blanket ban on internet porn
According to a recent analysis, people in Hyderabad have taken an avid interest in viewing porn even though it has been banned. With the Union government banning 827 porn sites across the country, an increase of 75% has been seen in porn viewing in Hyderabad.

Hyderabad is among the many states which have seen an increase in porn viewership. On conducting a medical study, it was claimed that the increasing number of divorces can be attributed to psychological effects of porn addiction.

A survey published by DocOnline and conducted by city doctors, it was inferred that the obsession with pornography is effecting the sexual health of viewers. Dr Syed Abrar Kareem, a physician stated that porn gives rise to impractical sexual expectations which when not met, result in psycho-somatic disorders. Out of the 5,000 people chosen for the survey, 3,500 were men and 1,500 were women confessed to watching porn regularly.

A rise of 31% has been recorded in divorces and break-ups. Allegedly, the doctors have also seen an increase in impotency cases being brought to them due to the extreme involvement in virtual sex.

 

 

Frightening censorship...

Artwork censored from outside Lahore museum


Link Here 28th January 2019

The Lahore High Court in Pakistan is hearing a petition to remove a huge sculpture of Satan that is frightening children outside the Lahore Museum, Daily Pakistan reported.

Ambreen Qureshi, the petitioner, told the court:

This sculpture has nothing to do with our culture whereas the purpose of a museum is to preserve our history and culture.

The 20-foot-high, animal-man hybrid sculpture by Irtbaatul Hassan, a student at Punjab University of Arts and Design, was placed on the grounds of Lahore Museum on 11 January as part of an outdoor statue exhibition. Hassan's sculpture was intended to highlight the differences between man and animals, which are incapable of self-reflection, according to The News on Sunday.

The controversial sculpture has already been covered up with cloth and taken away, it said.

 

 

Updated: Then they came for the VPNs...

Indian ISP starts blocking websites of VPN providers


Link Here 22nd January 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in India...India considers blanket ban on internet porn

The India ISP Jio has upped the ante in internet porn censorship as it has decided to block the websites of VPN providers.

Following a court decision in India requiring that the country ban access to online porn, reports began to emerge in October that internet access providers had begun blocking as many as 827 adult sites.

But now the Indian telecom firm may be going a step further, thwarting attempts by users in its 250-million strong subscriber base to find workarounds to the ban using Virtual Private Network (VPN) software.

Jio appears to have blocked access to proxy sites where the VPN software can be downloaded, according to the report.

Update: Censoring ISP loses customers

22nd January 2019. See  article from avn.com

There are now signs that Reliance Jio may be suffering blowback from its enthusiastic support of the porn ban, seeing an overall drop in traffic by its users for the final quarter of 2018, with the average Jio customer dropping data use from an average of 11 gigabytes per month to 10.8 gigs, according to a report by The Hindu newspaper.

Asked whether the drop in data use by its customers was a result of the ban on porn sites, Jio official Anshuman Thakur replied, Yes, you could say that.

Jio's new subscriber signups also dropped in the last three months of 2018, to 27.8 million new subscribers during that period, when the porn ban took effect, from 37 million in the previous quarter.

 

 

Shonibar Bikel...

Bangladesh film censor bans movie based on a terrorist attack claiming that it would damage the country's reputation


Link Here 18th January 2019
Full story: Banned Films in Bangladesh...Rana Plaza banned for releasing dire factory conditions

Shonibar Bikel (Saturday Afternoon) is a 2019 Bangladesh / India / Germany thriller by Mostofa Sarwar Farooki.
Starring Parambrata Chatterjee, Ellie Poussot and Selina Black. IMDb

A thriller based on a terrorist attack in 2016 claimed by Islamic State in which 22 people were murdered in at the Holey Artisan Cafe.

The film has just been banned in January 2019

The film censor claimed that it would damage the country's reputation, adding that it could also incite religious fervour. The movie has also been banned from being marketed abroad.

Director Mostofa Sarwar Farooki criticised the decision to ban his film saying:

Filmmakers should feel free to take inspiration from any incident that happens around them. They don't tarnish an image. They only interpret events. It's real world actions that can damage an image.

He said they would appeal against the decision in the hope of gaining a theatrical release.

 

 

Closed society...

India's proposals for the censorship of social media do not go down well


Link Here 18th January 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in India...India considers blanket ban on internet porn
India's Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology has proposed new social media censorship rules.

Open for public comment through 31 January 2019, the new rules would compel platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter to remove, within 24 hours, any unlawful content that affects the sovereignty and integrity of India.

According to a definition posted online by the Indian government last week, unlawful material includes anything that could be seen as grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, pedophilic, libelous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever.

The definition also covers political speech, including any content that threatens the unity, integrity, defense, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order, or causes incitement to the commission of any cognisable offense or prevents investigation of any offense or is insulting any other nation.

The new rule would also mandate companies to reveal the origin of a message when asked, which violates WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption privacy policy. They would also require companies with more than five million users in India to have a local office available for 24/7 cooperation with law enforcement.

Industry experts and civil rights activists are concerned that the new rules are veering dangerously close to censorship, and lobbyists have already started drafting objections to file with the ministry.

Internet company Mozilla Corp came out strongly against the guidelines, stating that the proposal was a blunt and disproportionate solution to the problem of harmful content online. Industry executives note that the guidelines would put the privacy of users at risk and would raise costs, as it would necessitate round-the-clock monitoring of content.

The new law is set to take effect on January 31.

Update: And as for backdoors for WhatsApp

18th January 2019. See article from ft.com

WhatsApp is gearing up to fight the Indian government's proposals to force tech companies to hand over the personal data and encrypted messages of Indian users.

India's internet censor and IT ministry have both proposed laws that would allow authorities to trace the origins of encrypted messages. The legislation would also compel tech companies including Facebook, Twitter and Apple to proactively monitor and remove objectionable content posted on their platforms.

The new rules essentially mean breaking encryption and collecting much more data than WhatsApp currently do, which amounts to mass surveillance.

A WhatsApp expert said that the app is designed to not collect or store a record of who wrote and sent every message on the platform. The company would have to redesign its systems and revise its privacy policies in order to comply with the proposals.

And of course if WhatsApp continues to operate in repressive regimes like India and Australia then worldwide users will be able to infer that all their messages can also be decrypted at the behest of the authorities in any country.

 

 

Perhaps the BBFC and UK government should take note...

Indians find ways around the country's attempts to block internet porn


Link Here 18th January 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in India...India considers blanket ban on internet porn
The Indian government's effort to block citizens from watching pornography hasn't quite worked, according to website analytics data. On the contrary, overall consumption of internet porn may have increased over the past few months with traffic shifting to other sites and the use of proxy servers.

Fifty-nine of the banned websites, data of which was shared by SimilarWeb, a web analytics company, received an average of 1.7 billion monthly visits before the ban and the figure dropped to 0.8 billion visits after the ban. However this drop has been more than compensated for by visits to at least 441 other websites that are not banned. These websites together received an average of 0.6 billion monthly visits before the ban and two billion after the ban. Adding these together reveals that monthly porn site visits increased from 2.3 billion to 2.8 billion as a result of the ban.

There are other factors also contributing to why the ban is not working.

First, at least 42% of the websites in the banned list (345 of the total 827) are still accessible on the internet if users write https instead of http in the web address. These accessible websites include the top three porn websites in India -- Xnxx, Xvideos and Pornhub.

Second, Indians are also accessing the banned porn websites through easily available proxy networks or virtual private networks (VPN) that hide their identity and location, and in turn let users bypass any such ban. A sudden surge in the number of visits to some of the most popular proxy service websites makes this fact evident.

For instance, proxy site kproxy.com received 2.3 million visits from India in November, according to ComScore. This was more than twice its average of 0.9 million visits in the previous three months. The increased use of proxy services by porn consumers in India is also evident from data on Google Trends, a tool that quantifies the popularity of search queries over time. The popularity of search terms like porn proxy, porn site proxy and porn vpn in India rose seven to 10 times in the week the ban was announced.

Third, the list of the 827 websites that were banned does not cover a wide enough range of such sites. Among the 500 most visited porn websites in India, according to ComScore data, only 59 websites have been banned. Among the top 10, only five have been blocked.

 

 

Netflix flux...

Indian internet TV companies introduce self censorship rules


Link Here 17th January 2019
Fearful of state censorship being imposed on internet TV, several internet TV companies that operate in India have collaborated on a set of self censorship rules.

Netflix and Indian rival Hotstar plan to adopt these rules whilst noting that the country's laws currently do not mandate any censorship of content on online streaming platforms.

A draft of the censorship rules state that the platforms would prohibit content that shows a child engaged in real or simulated sexual activities, is disrespectful of India's national flag or encourages terrorism.  The rules also ban content which deliberately and maliciously intends to outrage religious sentiments of any class, section or community.

Amazon Prime Video will not sign the code, though it helped draft it, as the company does not want to act in the absence of government-mandated regulation, a source said.

Participating companies will appoint a person, team or department to receive and address any consumer-related complaints.

 

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