Earlier this month we had reported about The Chief Justice of India's decision to shut down any obscene or pornographic websites online – this had also led to the shut down of famous desi pornographic toon site – savitabhabhi.com.
Now there has been another update to the IT law and according to which the government have dropped the power to block pornographic websites purely on the ground of obscenity.
This new update to the IT law is a welcome change as this would lead to the shut down of any website in India only if it violates basic state laws or intimidates people.
Shut down decisions now rest completely with the Judiciary (only courts) and an websites can only be shut down on the following 5 grounds:
*overeignty and integrity of India
defence of India
security of the state
friendly relations with foreign states and
Under the old provision, the government could ban websites to prevent incitement to the commission of any cognizable offense' including obscenity.
Taking into account the differing perceptions of what can be lascivious and prurient , the Bombay high court turned down a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a blanket ban on websites with sexual content on the internet.
A public interest litigation (PIL) initiated by NGO Janhit Manch had sought a court direction to the Union government to ban freely available sexual content on the internet. The PIL stated that the pornographic and sexual content on the Net was
adversely influencing the minds of the country's youth, who could be misled into delinquency .
According to Janhit Manch, the government had rightly banned an adult website, www.savitabhabhi.com,and must follow suit in the case of other pornographic and sexually explicit websites as well.
The judges, however, felt that they should not direct authorities to monitor websites. Their order said, If such an exercise is done, then an aggrieved party, depending on the sensibilities of persons whose views may differ on what is morally
degrading or prurient, will be sitting in judgment even before a competent court decides the issue .
The court said Janhit Manch was free to lodge a complaint against any sites which, according to them, may be publishing or transmitting obscene content.
India's Supreme Court Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan has called for placing restrictions on websites circulating pornography and hate material, and justified the Central Government's action in the matter.
Addressing a seminar on Enforcement of Cyber Law here, Balakrishnan said the government initiative was the right step: They (websites) can also be used to circulate offensive content such as pornography, hate speech and defamatory material.
In many cases the Intellectual Property rights of artists are violated by unauthorised circulations, he said.
He called upon monitoring agencies and the judiciary not to let gains of the IT (information technology) be an exploiting tool in society: It is the job of the legal system and regulatory agencies to make sure that newer technologies do not become
tools of exploitation and harassment
India is considering drafting a new law to ban pornographic websites.
Minister of State for Home Ramesh Bagwe announced: We are thinking of introducing an act to ban pornographic websites. We will also request the Central government to amend the existing laws to make them more stringent .
He also police teams have begun patrolling cyber cafés to monitor downloading activities.
Draft rules proposed by the Indian government for intermediaries such as telecommunications companies, ISPs and blogging sites will amount to censorship.
Under the draft rules, such intermediaries will have to notify users of their services not to use, display, upload, publish, share or store a variety of content, for which the definition is very vague, and liable to misuse.
Content that is prohibited under these guidelines ranges from information that may harm minors in any way to content that is harmful, threatening, abusive.
Some of the terms are so vague that to stay on the right side of the law, intermediaries may in effect remove third-party content that is even mildly controversial, said Pavan Duggal, a cyberlaw consultant and advocate in India's Supreme Court.
finding out about infringing content, either on its own or through the authorities, the intermediary has to work with the user or owner of the information to remove access to the information.
The draft rules also add new provisions that appear designed to give the government easier access to content from intermediaries. Intermediaries will be required to provide information to authorized government agencies for investigative, protective,
cybersecurity or intelligence activity, according to the rules.
The draft rules are secondary legislation framed by the government under the country's Information Technology (Amendment) Act of 2008. Under the IT Act, an intermediary is not liable for any third-party information, data, or communication link made
available or hosted by him, if among other things, he has observed due diligence under the draft rules.
India will seek to block the internet's newly-formed red-light district after a global agency governing the web approved .xxx suffix for pornography websites last week, a senior government official said.
Last week, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved .xxx suffix for pornography websites raising concerns from online pornography businesses and activists about a large scale arbitrary censorship by governments across
the world who would now be able to easily identify porn sites because of the new nomenclature.
India along with many other countries from the Middle East and Indonesia opposed the grant of the domain in the first place, and we would proceed to block the whole domain, as it goes against the IT Act and Indian laws, said a senior official
at the ministry of IT. Though some people have said that segregation is better, and some countries allow it. But for other nations transmission and direct distribution of such content goes against their moral and culture, he added.
April 2011 saw the enactment of Information technology Rules Act 2011 which introduce internet censorship to India.
The new repressive rules massively curtail freedom of internet speech and have left many offended as it destroys the internet as a platform of speech and beliefs.
The Act says that any statement that threatens the unity, integrity; defense, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states or public order is to be censored from the web. The act is very vague and is likely to invoke even
more controversy in days ahead.
The new rules empower any official or private citizen to demand the removal of content that they consider objectionable on the basis of long list of criteria prepared by the information department.
The Department of Information Technology is empowered to block any site that displays any disparaging material. Article 19 of the Indian constitution allows for 'reasonable' restrictions. These restrictions have been used so far to ban books, movies
on sensitive subjects like sex, politics and religion. India has also been famed for condemning speeches by famous personalities as seditious.
As part of India's Information Technology (Guidelines for Cyber Cafe') Rules, 2011, cyber cafe' owners are now required to make an effort to stop users from accessing pornographic or supposedly obscene websites.
According to The Times of India, cyber cafe's were notified on April 11th of a ruling requiring them to register with a government agency to ensure their adherence to the new guidelines.
In addition to monitoring porn, the new rules make it mandatory for Internet cafe' owners to install a filtering software and keep a log of all websites accessed by customers for at least one year. It also states that users will be required to present
an identity card before being given access to a public computer. Additionally, building cubicles with a height of more than four and half feet will also be disallowed.
Cyber cafe' owners will be asked to give user logs to the registration agency every month.
If there's a segment that indicates how poorly thought out India's finalized Internet control rules are, it is sub-rule 2 and 4 of the segment pertaining to Intermediaries in the country's finalized Information Technology rules.
Sub Rule 2 states that Users shall not host, display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update or share any information that is grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, 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;
Additionally, Sub Rule 2 also states that users may not publish anything that threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or or public order or causes incitement to the commission
of any cognisable offence or prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any other nation.
Sub rule 4 states that
(4) The intermediary, on whose computer system the information is stored or hosted or published, upon obtaining knowledge by itself or been brought to actual knowledge by an affected person in writing or through email signed with
electronic signature about any such information as mentioned in sub-rule (2) above, shall act within thirty six hours and where applicable, work with user or owner of such information to disable such information that is in contravention of sub-rule (2).
Further the intermediary shall preserve such information and associated records for at least ninety days for investigation purposes.
India's Department of Telecommunications has been asked to monitor Twitter and Facebook, because of fears that the sites are being used to plan terrorist attacks.
In April, the Indian Information Technology (IT) Act of 2008 was amended, giving officials the ability to monitor web activity. It also provides officials with access to private information, including passwords, without a court order.
However, Facebook and Twitter do not release the information of their users without a court order.
Indian film censors are saying enough is enough and want an end to excessive blood being shed in Telugu films. There is a feeling among censors that perhaps it could be shown as orange.
Film directors and producers are amused, enraged and are at their wits end as to how to get out of this bloody mess but the censor scissors are proving to be much sharper than the long swords and spears that heroes wield on screen.
The latest film to hurt the sensibilities of the censors is Rajanna . Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) chairperson Leela Samson has raised concerns over too much of violence in South Indian films, and taking a cue from her
observations, board regional officer A Dhanalakshmi is clamping down on gory scenes.
The general instructions for Rajanna have been:
Delete the visuals of blood, slurring the whole screen, spilling, spurting, dropping, and dripping wherever it occurs in the movie. Delete the visuals of sword, spear or any weapon coming out from the other side of the body wherever
According to sources, the war against blood by the censors began a few months ago with producers and directors being gently asked not to show so much of bloodshed on the screen. If it is inevitable, it is suggested that at least the red should be given a gentle orange hue. It is learnt that one film producer obliged and whenever he had to show blood, it was in orange colour.
Even as the controversy over Indian IT minister Kapil Sibal urging social networking sites to censor offensive content rages on, a trial court has directed several sites, including Facebook, Google, Orkut and Youtube, to remove anti-religious or
anti-social content promoting hatred or communal disharmony .
Administrative civil judge Mukesh Kumar has directed the social networking sites to remove objectionable content in the form of photos, videos or text which might hurt religious sentiments. The court's order came on a civil suit filed by Mufti Aijaz
Arshad Qasmi who had submitted a CD and printouts of the supposedly offensive contents.
The judge said:
The defendants (websites) are hereby restrained from publishing defamatory articles shown by the plaintiff and contained in the CD filed by the plaintiff immediately on service of this order and notice. Defendants are further directed
to remove the same from the social networking sites.
The court has also issued summons to the sites and fixed the matter for hearing on December 24, 2011.
The Indian government has asked Internet companies and social media sites like Facebook to prescreen user content from India and to remove disparaging, inflammatory or defamatory content before it goes online, three executives in the information
technology industry say.
Top officials from the Indian units of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook are meeting with Kapil Sibal, India's acting telecommunications minister to discuss the issue.
About six weeks ago, Sibal called legal representatives from the top ISPs and Facebook into his New Delhi office, said an executives who was briefed on the meeting. At the meeting, Sibal showed attendees a Facebook page that maligned the Congress
Party's president, Sonia Gandhi. This is unacceptable, he told attendees, the executive said, and he asked them to find a way to monitor what is posted on their sites.
In the second meeting with the same executives in late November, Sibal told them that he expected them to use human beings to screen content, not technology.
The executives said representatives from these companies will tell Sibal that his demand is impossible, given the volume of user-generated content coming from India, and that they cannot be responsible for determining what is and isn't defamatory or
disparaging. If there's a law and there's a court order, we can follow up on it, said an executive from one of the companies attending the meeting. But these companies can't be in the business of deciding what is and isn't legal to post, he said.
Indian Communications Minister Kapil Sibal met officials from Google, Facebook and other websites and he was not a happy bunny.
He ludicrously wanted social media companies to implement the vetting of user content before it was published. He said the firms had told him they were unable to take action
He said the government would now introduce guidelines to ensure blasphemous material did not appear on internet.
Addressing a press conference Sibal said companies would not be allowed to say, we throw up our hands, we can't do anything about this . My aim is that insulting material never gets uploaded. We will evolve guidelines and mechanisms to deal
with the issue. They will have to give us the data, where these images are being uploaded and who is doing it.
Before the press conference, Sibal showed reporters morphed photos of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, as well as pigs running through Islam's holy city of Mecca.
Sibal's nonsense hasn't gone down well with social media users. The hashtag #IdiotKapilSibal is currently seeing a lot of chatter. No doubt he will want that censored too.
Update: Out of his depth comms minister backtracks on Facebook pre-censorship
Indian Communications Minister Kapil Sibal has been on the receiving end of much international ridicule for his ludicrous suggestion requiring user content websites to pre-censor content before publication.
Google, owners of YouTube and Blogger, were forthright with their comments. In a statement issued by company spokesperson Google categorically said they will not censor content simply because it is controversial. The representative said:
We work really hard to make sure that people have as much access to information as possible, while also following the law. This means that when content is illegal, we abide by local law and take it down. And even where content is
legal but breaks or violates our own terms and conditions we take that down too, once we have been notified about it, but when content is legal and does not violate our policies, we will not remove it just because it is controversial, as we believe that
people's differing views, so long as they are legal, should be respected and protected.
Well now the beleaguered minister has back tracked on his proposal via denial. Sibal spoke on TV to NDTV:
There can be no pre-screening of content on the electronic media and on the social media... It would be madness to ask for it and I don't think any sane person would.
Meanwhile in Pakistan, defence minister A K Antony repsonded to Kapil Sibal's suggestion to censor social media platforms like Facebook, Orkut, Twitter and YouTube. He said the government had already given clarification that there was no such move.
Social media is a reality and has become the voice of young generation to express their feelings and opinion, and government would not curtail this freedom, he said, adding that social media is like any other media in the present world.
...BUT... the power of social media should not be misused and people should maintain some restraint in using the potential of social networking sites and Internet.
Kapil Sibal found an ally in Aditya Thackeray Aditya on censoring of social networking sites. At a press conference called by the political party Shiv Sena, Thackeray said government should put a mechanism in place to filter objectionable content in
sites like Facebook.
A lot of objectionable material is available on these sites. They are corrupting our youngsters and posing a threat to our culture, he said.
Facebook, Microsoft, YouTube, Google, and 21 others have been issued summons by the court, on grounds of carrying objectionable content.
They have now been charged with section 292 (sale of obscene books etc), 293 (sale of obscene objects to young person etc) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
If these sites fail to clear derogatory content off their websites by February 6, 2012 they would be charged for contempt of court.
According to a statement from the court, the judge was deeply shocked by what he saw amongst the evidence presented to the court. Apparently unknown persons are selling, publicly exhibiting and have put into circulation obscene, lascivious content
which also appears to the prurient interests and tends to deprave and corrupt the persons who are likely to read, see or hear it. Such as images of women kissing men.
It is also evident that such contents are continuously openly and freely available to everyone who is using the said network irrespective of their age and even the persons under the age of 18 years have full and uncensored access to such obscene
contents, the court ruled.
It means that all the big names will either have to censor the internet or pull out of the lucrative Indian market. They are not likely to find much support from politicians either. The Indian government is furious that its citizens are apparently
able to go onto the Internet and say nasty things about the Gandhi family.
Google India has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court saying that it does not exercise any control over content on YouTube, Google, Orkut or Blogspot in India, and thus can't be summoned to an Indian court in a criminal case against it related to
inflammatory images of Gods and Goddesses posted on some of its websites.
The petition to quash a criminal complaint was submitted by Google India's lawyers in the Delhi High Court.
The original criminal complaint was filed by editor of Akbari , Vinay Rai last month. Google's India MD Rajan Anandan has been summoned to appear in a lower court on Friday in connection with this complaint.
According to the petition, Google India says that it has been appointed just as a distributor of Google Inc.'s Adwords program in India, and thus it's India MD does not control the Blogger, Google or YouTube websites. Google India furthur says that
sites such as Orkut.com are owned by Google Inc, and thus it is not even an intermediary' as defined in the Indian IT Act, and thus can't be summoned to answer in any case regarding content .
Mukul Rohatgi, counsel for Google India, told ET that it's humanly impossible to monitor or remove the content before it is uploaded on the internet. My client Google India is different from Google Inc, and does not have any control over the
platform. Google India is just an advertising and revenue collection body.
Appearing for Vinay Rai, his counsel SPM Tripathi said that according to IT Rules, 2011, the websites have to remove the content within 36 hours of receiving a court order, which they have not complied with. The content on the websites is
derogatory against Hindu, Muslim and Christian Gods and Goddesses, and can spark a riot if publicised. It incites hatred and enmity between communities and thus should be removed by the parties.
The Delhi High Court delayed hearings on petitions by Facebook and Google to dismiss criminal proceedings against them in the country's Web censorship case. The two Internet giants are among 21 companies that have been asked to develop a mechanism to
block objectionable material in India, and the Indian government has given the green light for their prosecution.
Earlier this week, Facebook and Google told the Delhi High Court they cannot block offensive content that appears on their services. Although the case was originally filed in a lower court, the companies have appealed to the Delhi High Court,
challenging the lower court's ruling asking them to take down some content. The high court has now pushed back the case till February 2, according to NDTV. If their petitions fail, the 21 companies will have to face trial in the lower court, which has
its next hearing scheduled for March 13.
Google India has removed web pages deemed offensive to Indian political and religious leaders to comply with a court case that has raised censorship fears in the world's largest democracy.
A New Delhi court gave Facebook, Google, YouTube and Blogspot and other sites two weeks to present further plans for policing their networks, according to the Press Trust of India.
Google India did not say which sites were removed but had said it would be willing to go after anything that violated local law or its own standards.
Indian officials have been incensed by material insulting to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ruling Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi and religious groups, including illustrations showing Singh and Gandhi in compromising positions and pigs running
through Mecca, Islam's holiest city.
Communications Minister Sachin Pilot said that anyone hurt by online content should be able to seek legal redress, he said. The government has warned it has evidence to prosecute 21 sites for offenses of promoting enmity between classes and causing
prejudice to national integration.
The Delhi High Court has refused to stay a summons against Google and Facebook issued by a trial court over a private complaint. At the same time, Justice Suresh Kait denied a strong plea from the counsel for the Delhi Police that Google India
managing director Rajan Anandan and Facebook India's director of online operations Kirthiga Reddy appear in person before the trial court on 13 March, when the next hearing is scheduled.
What is this insistence that they should appear in person? Justice Kait asked public prosecutor Naveen Sharma. They have been allowed to appear through a lawyer. The court deferred the hearing of the petition challenging their summonses to 3
Sharma told the court that websites like Facebook and Yahoo had been given sufficient warnings and opportunities by the communications and information technology ministry to remove objectionable content before steps were taken for their prosecution.
Presumably, Google has satisfied the request of the Indian courts as no more removal requests have been added to Google's Transparency Report although 122 more items have been added to the Items requested to be removed category. Additionally,
only half of the removal requests have been fulfilled.
An Indian court has ordered all of the country's ISPs to block 104 web sites that it claims offer illegal music downloads.
The Indian court's ruling came in the week that MPAA chairman and CEO Chris Dodd told the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry conference, We encourage the Indian film industry to reject as we have, the false argument that you
cannot be pro-technology and pro-copyright at the same time.
The ISPs must block the web sites using both DNS and IP address blocking with deep packet inspection to reinforce the ban. Indian ISPs will implement the block by doing much more than just poisoning DNS servers, including IP address blocks and deep
packet inspection (DPI). While DPI cannot see within SSH tunnels it can detect whether traffic is being tunnelled and can in theory drop it indiscriminately.
The Delhi Court has found blogger Jitender Bagga's blogs against Art of Living leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to be defamatory and has ordered Google to take them down. Google complied with the order.
The complaint against the blogger is for content posted on his blog hosted on Blogpost (owned by Google) at revolutionprithvi.blogspot.in and srisriravishankarisguruorconman.blogspot.in. The directive by the High Court seemed to be another harsh
ruling biased against the Internet and freedom of speech. However, if one looks at the websites listed in the complaint and the content, it does appear that Jitender Bagga was vindictive and has an axe to grind. Voicing ones opinion as form of art or
literature is one thing, going hammer and tongs against someone in a malicious and resentful attack, is something completely different.
Internet users in Kashmir were unable to access Facebook and YouTube after the Indian government had issued orders to ISPs to block access to the websites, IBNLive reported.
The move is believed to be in response to the protests against the anti-Islam video on YouTube but it now seems that access to the entire websites have been restricted , IBNLive reported.
In late September, reports indicated that the Jammu & Kashmir state government had told service providers to ensure that the controversial YouTube video was not accessible by users in the troubled state. Mass protests broke out in Kashmir in
September over the anti-Islam film posted on YouTube.
Responding to the blocking of YouTube and Facebook, Hameeda Nayeem, chairperson of the Kashmir Centre of Social and Development Studies (KCSDS), told Al Jazeera:
Surveillance of social media websites in Kashmir was not new. In 2010 (during the protests), Facebook was monitored and many boys were arrested because of their activities on Facebook.
There has always been surveillance ... the latest move is based on that blasphemous film, but it is just another excuse to monitor and block communication services. For instance, SMS services have often been turned off in the state.
India's cabinet has approved the introduction of an amendment to the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act of 1986 in the forthcoming winter session of Parliament. This increases the penalties for making supposedly indecent exposure
of women and extends the scope of the law to cover audio-visual media including SMS, Internet, etc. The original law was limited to the print media.
The key amendments include raising the penalty to a maximum of three years of jail and fine of Rs 50,000-Rs 1 lakh. The second conviction will entail imprisonment of two to seven years and a fine of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.
The law was enacted in 1986 to prohibit supposedly indecent depiction of women through advertisements, publication, writing and painting. Officials claim the proposed amendments were finalised after extensive consultations with the stakeholders,
including lawyers and civil society representatives.
Mumbai police have set up a group for the surveillance of social networks.
This follows several arrests across the country for political cartoons or comments made online.
Obviously internet users are worried. Sunil Abraham, executive director of the Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society research group, said the natural reaction was to worry about the new police lab given the way the law has been used.
He told AFP:
Police in the last four years have acted in an arbitrary and random fashion, often using the IT Act to settle political scores
When there's no crisis for the police, proactively keeping an eye on what people are saying or doing is overkill.
But the police unconvincingly claim that this will not be censorship.
Police commissioner Satyapal Singh claimed the lab was not set up to censor comments. His spin on police censorship was:
By reading the mindset of what people are writing on various modes of communication, we will try to provide better and improved safety and security to the Mumbai citizens.
An Indian Parliamentary Standing Committee has come out with a report in which it has lambasted the government and asked it to make changes to IT rules that govern internet-related cases in India.
It said in the report that multiple clauses in the laws had inherent ambiguity and that discrepancies exist in the government's stand on whether some rules are mandatory or only of advisory nature.
The committee said that inherent ambiguity of words like blasphemy and disparaging , among others, has led to the harassment of people. Incidents include the arrest of two girls over liking a Facebook post and a defamation case
against an individual for an offensive tweet. It has also been used by multiple politicians to suppress voices of dissent by branding them as defamatory .
Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) said:
The government has told the Committee that the rules are for self-regulation, but they in fact aren't. The rules dictate what content cannot be hosted. And our research found that intermediaries react to fake takedown requests too,
just to avoid being liable for their users' content. This is not self-regulation, but government-mandated private censorship.
The committee also suggested that all evidence relating to foreign websites refusing to honour Indian laws should be made public and a public debate should be encouraged as the internet is a global phenomena. Recently there have been instances of
issues between the Indian government and tech giants like Facebook and Google related to censorship and taking down of offensive and defamatory content.
While the govt's stand is that Intermediary Guidelines are only of advisory nature and self-regulation and that it is not mandatory for the Intermediary to disable the information , the wording of the laws suggest otherwise.
An Indian parliamentary committee has decided to look into banning cyber porn amid complaints that it is supposedly distorting and distressing the society.
The Committee on Petitions is seeking a ban on cyber pornography by amending the IT Act, 2000. The committee has sought opinion from stakeholders and public to help formulate its view.
Jain priest Vijayratna Sunder Suri and MP Vijay J Darda petitioned that the free sex culture through cyber pornography is distorting and distressing society:
More than two-third of India's population is below 35 years. This large section of the population, which is the hope for the country's future, is getting digressed, distorted and distressed due to the growing free sex culture through
The petitioners have blamed cyber porn for what they claim growing problems of psycho-physical nature, including sexually transmitted diseases and sexual deformities among others. The petition has demanded an amendment to the IT Act so as to make
pornography on computer or mobile a crime, attracting severe punishment to the producers, distributors and viewers of such sites.
India's Supreme Court has ordered the government to take steps to block porn sites and has granted four weeks to produce a plan.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the morality campaigner Kamlesh Vaswani who claimed that although watching obscene videos is not an offence, pornographic sites should be banned as they are one of the major causes for crime against women.
The petition alleged that over 20 crore porn videos or clippings are freely available in the market, which are directly been downloaded through Internet or other video CDs.
The sexual content that kids are accessing today is far more graphic, violent, brutal, deviant and destructive and has put entire society in danger so also safety threats to public order in India.
The petitioner most respectfully submits that most of the offences committed against women/girls/children are fuelled by pornography. The worrying issue is the severity and gravity of the images are increasing. It is a matter of
serious concern that prepubescent children are being raped.
The petition also asked that watching and sharing obscene videos should be made non-bailable and cognisable offence.
The rules India makes for its online users are highly significant, not only will they apply to 1 in 6 people on earth, but as the country emerges as a global power they will shape future debates over freedom of expression online.
In the latest blow for free speech, the government of the southern Indian state of Karnataka has passed legislation that makes it illegal to upload, share, or like content with a view to hurt religious sentiments knowingly or unknowingly .
Back in June, Karnataka police warned citizens about the type of things that were covered by the Information Technology Act:
Citizens are warned not to upload, modify, resend (forward) and like (share) malicious or misleading images, videos and messages through any medium with a view to hurt religious sentiments knowingly or unknowingly. Citizens are
encouraged to inform the Police Control Room at...
New legislation, the lengthily named Karnataka Prevention of Dangerous Activities of Bootleggers, Drug-offenders, Gamblers, Goondas, Immoral Traffic Offenders, Slum-Grabbers and Video or Audio Pirates (Amendment) Bill, 2014, means that citizens can
now actually be arrested if they have even committed an offence under the Information Technology Act.
The Indian government has asked ISPs and mobile operators to block access to 32 sites in the name of its censorship laws GitHub, Archive.org, Imgur, Vimeo, Daily Motion and Pastebin are some of the more familiar names included on the list.
The leader of the Bharatiya Janata political party spouted some unlikely sounding bollox that the banned websites contained some content from ISIS.
Already it seems that some ISPs have taken action and cut access to a number of the websites. The Times Of India reports that its correspondents were not able to access Pastebin, DailyMotion or GitHub using Vodafone's 3G service, although they were
able to get on the three sites via rival operator Airtel's service.
The addition of GitHub, a massively popular site for the community development of code seems a particularly harmful decision for India's technology industry. And surely there will be a powerful lobby calling for the unblocking of at least this site.
According to IANS , the Government decided to unblock four websites after they gave assurances to the government that they will not allow pasting on Jihadi propaganda. The sites that were unblocked were Website creation & hosting site Weebly.com ,
Video hosting platforms Vimeo.com & Dailymotion.com and software repository gist.github.com .
Pastebin tells ZDNet that the Indian government's wide-ranging internet block, which had included the site , has been removed and Indian citizens are again able to access Pastebin -- but 27 sites still remain banned under the order .
According to Pastebin's statement to ZDNet, there is still no verifiable explanation for India's government-ordered internet censorship.
The Indian government has ended its blocking of all the 32 websites censored for the unlikely reason that the sites were being used by terrorists. A source said:
Order was issued on Thursday to unblock all 32 websites that were blocked following complaint of Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad that ISIS is disseminating content through them. All websites has responded that they will work with
government and removed jehadi content,
India's Supreme Court has ruled on three internet censorship sections of the Information Technology Act 2000 - Section 66A, Section 79 and Section 69A.
The draconian Section 66A was originally meant to tackle spam and cyber-stalking but was used by the powerful elite to crack down on online dissent and criticism.
Section 79 was meant to give immunity to internet intermediaries for liability emerging from third-party speech, but it had a chilling effect on free speech because intermediaries erred on the side of caution when it came to deciding whether the
content was legal or illegal.
And Section 69A was the web blocking or internet censorship provision, but the procedure prescribed did not adhere to the principles of natural justice and transparency. For instance, when books are banned by courts, the public is informed of such
bans but when websites are banned in India, there's no clear message from the ISP.
The Supreme Court upheld 69A, so web blocking and internet censorship in India will continue to happen in an opaque fashion which is worrying.
But on 66A and 79, the landmark judgment protects the right to free speech and expression. It struck down 66A in entirety, saying the vague and imprecise language made the provision unconstitutional and it interfered with the right of the people to
know - the market place of ideas - which the internet provides to persons of all kinds .
However, it only read down Section 79 saying unlawful acts beyond what is laid down as reasonable restrictions to the right to free speech in the Constitution obviously cannot form any part of the section. In short, the court has
eliminated any additional restrictions for speech online even though it admitted that the internet is intelligibly different from traditional media and might require additional laws to be passed by the Indian Parliament.
There will be no restrictions on watching porn within the confines of your own home, the Indian Supreme Court has said. The apex court declined a plea to pass an interim order to block all porn sites in India.
Hearing a petition by advocate Kamlesh Vashwani, Chief Justice H.L. Dattu said: Such interim orders cannot be passed by this court. Somebody may come to the court and say look I am above 18 and how can you stop me from watching it within the four
walls of my room. It is a violation of Article 21 [right to personal liberty].
Twitter and Reddit users are reporting that state-owned ISPs MTNL and BSNL and privately-owned ISPs ACT, Spectranet, Tikona, Asianet and Hathway are blocking access to major porn websites. Mobile operator Vodafone is also blocking these websites.
While some users are just getting a This site has been blocked as per the instructions of Competent Authority, others are seeing a message that indicates that the sites are being blocked as per directions received from Department of Telecom,
Government of India. Some users are just getting blank pages or Directory doesn't exist, error message.
This move seems to have been somewhat unexpected, with perhaps the notable clue from July, when a Supreme Court bench responded to a request for blocking of porn websites saying:
It is an issue for the government to deal with. Can we pass an interim order directing blocking of all adult websites? And let us keep in mind the possible contention of a person who could ask what crime have I committed by browsing
adult websites in private within the four walls of my house. Could he not argue about his right to freedom to do something within the four walls of his house without violating any law?
The bench asked additional solicitor general Pinky Anand why the MHA had not taken any action on the list of websites and also not filed any response to the petition as sought by the court. Anand assured the court that the needful would be done:
The ministry will soon file a response to the petition and detail the action taken. All necessary steps under the Information and Technology Act will be taken.
Update: Government confirmed to be behind the internet censorship
The Indian government has ordered a large number of porn websites to be blocked, creating an uproar among users and civil rights groups in the country.
The Department of Telecommunications has issued orders for the blocking of 857 websites serving pornography, said two persons familiar with the matter, who declined to be named.
Section 69 (A) of India's Information Technology Act allows the government to order blocking of public access to websites and other information through computer resources, though this section appears to be designed to be invoked when a threat is
perceived to the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order.
Pranesh Prakash, policy director of the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore pointed out the illegality of the censorship:
The government cannot on its own block private access to pornography under current statutes. Parliament has not authorized the government to ban porn on its own.
However, courts have in the past ordered specific websites to be blocked for specific offences such as defamation, though as far as I know not for obscenity.
Viewing pornography privately is not a crime in India, though its sale and distribution is an offence.
Some porn websites were still accessible through certain Internet service providers on Monday, as some ISPs took some time to implement the order. All the 857 websites will be blocked by all ISPs today, said a source in the ISP industry, who
requested anonymity. As licensees we have to follow the orders.
Update: India plans to set up up a government porn censor
The Department of Electronics and Information Technology has asked Internet service providers to take down 857 porn websites, an official said. The official, however, said it was a temporary measure till the final orders are pronounced by the top
Explaining rationale for the decision, a top government official said the government has merely complied with the Supreme Court directive asking for measures to block porn sites. He said that the government would line up for the court to hear an array
of views, mostly anti-porn from NGOs, civil society, parental groups, child councillors, ISPs and government, and after hearing the views of all, let the court come with some guidelines. The official spoke of an official porn censor:
Let there be an ombudsman to take a call, like the TV ombudsman is there.
The censor could be a retired judge or somebody from the civil society. The official said all the stakeholders can give their views regarding the censorship mechanism that should be adopted for the cyber content related issues.
The Indian Government has ordered local ISPs to block access to a list of 857 websites that supposedly link to adult material. The broad blocking order goes further than targeting dedicated porn sites alone though. Torrent sites kickass.to and
h33t.to are listed too, as well as 9Gag, Liveleak and CollegeHumor.
The Government order is quite broad, and not just because of the high number of domain names involved. A leaked copy which list all of the affected domains reveals some unsuspected entries.
For example, the list contains two of the largest torrent sites, Kickass.to and H33t.to. The first is now operating under the new Kat.cr domain name and the latter site is down, so the effects of the blockade are minimal.
blockedcollegeWhile blocking these torrent sites may be justified as both sites do link to pornographic content, the same can't really be said for CollegeHumor and 9Gag, which are also on the blacklist.
The same goes for Liveleak, which has plenty of immoral videos but isn't really known for its vast amounts of porn. Finally, the list also includes nonvegjokes.com , a site specializing in dirty jokes.
India will restore open access to 857 pornographic websites, following widespread outrage over the censorship.
The department of telecoms told ISPs not to block porn URLs. The department tried to save a bit of face by bringing up the subject of child porn but of course none of the major porn websites being blocked have any.
Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad met senior officials on Tuesday to review the ban and decided that internet service providers (ISPs) would be immediately asked not to block those sites which did not contain any
News of the ban caused a furore on Indian social media, with several senior politicians and members of civil society expressing their opposition to the move.
Porn is still effectively banned in India, for the supposed reason that ISPs erroneously claim that there may be child porn on some of the world's best known and loved porn websites.
The government banned porn over the weekend, but after vast amounts of criticism quickly undid the block. But it came with a catch that sites that allow child porn should not be let back online. The Internet Service Providers Association of
India (ISPAI) ludicrously claimed:
ISPs have no way or mechanism to filter out child pornography from URLs, and the further unlimited sub-links.
The ISPs do not have mechanism to check the content, as the same is dynamic in nature. Hence, we request your good self to advise us immediately on the future course of action in this regard. Till your further directive, the ISPs are
keeping the said 857 URLs disabled.
The debate has also sparked concern over what some see as a growing culture of intolerance promoted by a series of actions by the right-wing BJP government, many of whose members are self-professed Hindu nationalists.
India's Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has appeared in court being quizzed about the short lived government censorship of porn websites. He now says:
How can you stop in on the privacy of your phone? The other thing is that if someone wants to watch it in the privacy of their bedroom, how can we stop that? These are now issues of 19(1).
There are many issues and we don't want to do moral policing. There is also difficulty: the websites can change their names and change their website, and it becomes difficult. We will obey court orders, but we don't want to become a
Article 19 (1) is about freedom of speech. That's pretty much what the Chief Justice had told the porn ban petitioners in the first place.
Somebody can come to the court and say, 'Look, I am an adult and how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room?' It is a violation of Article 21.
Article 21 is about a right to personal liberty.
So if both were on the same page anyway, why did the government willfully slap egg on its own face and make itself the butt of jokes last week with its 857-site ban which Rohatgi himself admits the department went and blocked without verifying ?
Indian Telecom companies including Bharti Airtel BSE 3.26% , Vodafone , Reliance Communications, Telenor and Reliance Jio Infocomm are said to be considering a plan to offer optional network level website blocking for parental control.
Telcos and Internet service providers (ISPs) are in active talks with New Zealand-based Bypass Network Services (BNSL) to deploy its Buddy Guard parental control solution, said Matthew Jackson, the company's cofounder.
Buddy Guard is aimed primarily at parents who may want to regulate the online behaviour of their children. Consumers can choose to opt for the control on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Jackson said the interest of telecom companies and ISPs in parental control had risen after last year's temporary porn ban.
The option may be debuted by one of the bigger fixed-line ISPs by February-March and by a telecom company within four months, starting with a few service areas and widening its reach gradually.
India's internet censors have demanded that local ISPs block 240 escort service websites.
The communications and IT ministry on Monday ordered the censorship of pinkysingh.com, jasmineescorts.com, onlyoneescorts.com, payalmalhotra.in, localescorts.in, pearlpatel.in, kavyajain.in, xmumbai.in, shimi.in and anchu.in.
About a year ago the government tried to block notable porn sites but it caused an uproar, and the government reversed its censorship. Escort services are not likely to be widely supported so no doubt the government will get its thin edge wedged in.
The Indian state of Uttarakhand has been hearing a rape case and has decided that porn was to blame. So the court is looking to resurrect an internet porn ban first mooted in 2015.
On August 3rd, 2015, three years back, the Government. of India had passed a notification which ordered all ISPs to ban pornographic content with immediate effect . Around 857 pornographic websites were ordered to be banned, and ISPs were duly
However, the Government faced massive backlash over this issue and were criticized for banning porn. Some even described this as Talibanization of the Internet. After two days, a new notification was issued; and this time, the responsibility for the
porn ban was passed over to the Internet Service Provider and limited to banning child porn.
Now the Uttarakhand High Court has ordered all Internet Service Providers to immediately ban porn websites, across India. If they fail to do so, then their license can be canceled!
While hearing a recent case of gang-rape in a school at Dehradun, the bench at Uttarakhand High Court comprising of acting chief justice Rajiv Sharma and justice Manoj Tiwari has asked the Centre Govt. to strictly implement a blanket ban on
pornography sites. The Bench observed:
Unlimited access to these pornographic sites is required to be blocked/curbed to avoid an adverse influence on the impressionable minds of children.
The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court has ordered the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to initiate effective steps against Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar and other private channels on Internet for broadcasting pornographic contents, crudity,
sexual or discriminatory language, and various levels of violence,
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by Adv Divya Gontiya requesting the High Court to issue orders aimed at 'urbing the deluge of vulgarity, violent scenes and crude language on webseries. The screening of pornographic contents, vulgar
gestures and talks are overriding the Indian culture and morality.
The High Court has directed the concerned ministries to set up a pre-screening committee for curbing , crudity, sexual or discriminatory language, vulgar gestures, nudity, sex, immodesty on webseries, monitor the webseries and advertisements before
going on online media.
Banning of porn sites with strict terms of service in a disservice to the people of India and will only lead people to go to risky porn sites that may contain illegal content. By Corey Price, VP of Pornhub
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
Video-sharing app TikTok has introduced an age gate feature for new users, which it claims will only allow those aged 13 years and above to create an account. TikTok also declared that it has removed more than six million videos that were in violation of
its community guidelines.
TikTok is said to be based in more than 20 countries, including India, and covers major Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Gujarati.
The app was banned by the Madras High Court earlier this month, chiefly on the ground that it posed a danger to children. The court said the app contained degrading culture, and that it encouraged pornography and pedophilia.
In February, TikTok was fined $5.7 million by the US Federal Trade Commission for violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting personal information of children below 13 years without parental consent.
As of April 15, the app remains available for download on Google's Play Store. TikTok's push for user safety
AVN.com is reporting that the online forum Reddit has been blocked by the country's largest ISPs
Reddit is ranked as the 21st most heavily trafficked site in the world. It has 330 million users spread across 217 countries.
Reddit, of course, is one of the few remaining major social media platforms that does not ban porn, and according to the India Times report, that is likely the reason why the Indian ISPs would block the discussion forum site.
Short video-sharing app TikTok came into the spotlight in India in the spring of this year. The app was accused of facilitating the distribution of pornography.
The app was banned for a while but was restored after it introduced a minimum age of at least 13 for new accounts. It also implemented automatic censorship tools that detected and blocked nudity.
Now the app has reappeared in the spotlight. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of the Indian ruling party Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has again called for video sharing site TikTok to be banned in India. In a letter to Prime Minister
Narendra Modi, the SJM said:
To prevent such applications from operating in India, we would humbly request the creation of a new law that requires testing and also regulation to protect our national security as well as the privacy of Indian users from countries
with inimical interests to India. Until such a law is notified, all such Chinese applications, including TikTok and Helo should be banned by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
In recent weeks, TikTok has become a hub for anti-national content that is being shared extensively on the application. We have been notified of videos advocating views that promote religious violence, anti-Harijan sentiments, and
mistreatment of women. There have also been various instances of deaths being caused due to TikTok across India.
The essence seems to be that if people are going to communicate with anti state ideas then they could at least use an Indian app rather than a Chinese one.
In October last year, an Indian court had ordered the government to reinstate its earlier ban on 827 porn websites including PornHub and xVideos. Porn companies initially put up a fight, launching mirror URLs such as pornhub.net after pornhub.com
became inaccessible. But a few months in, major internet service providers Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio also started blocking out the mirror URLs tool.
However Indians haven't been taking the censorship lying down. Mobile downloads of virtual private network (VPN) apps in India grew 405% to 57 million in the 12 months starting October 2018, as analysed by London-based Top10VPN, a website that reviews
The vast majority of users in India are using free VPN services, which are in effect not free--they often fund operations by selling user data. But the use of paid VPN services remains limited in India.
But not all Indian users have caught on to VPNs. Nearly half of the visitors of the banned websites have merely shifted to other adult content sites that aren't blocked in the country, such as RedPorn and SexVid, according to research from the
analytics firm SimilarWeb.
I always wonder if this response is one of the reasons why age verification for porn was cancelled by the British Government. The security services surely didn't want vast numbers of people to start using VPNs. They needed the AV services to be easy
and safe enough for porn users to be willing to use. And in the end most of the methods on offer were anything but.