8 website blocking requests in 2010 from the Indian Government, today stands at 1299. According to PTI, recently the Indian Government shared with the Parliament that it had asked social networking sites to block 1,299 web addresses or Uniform Resource Locator (URLs) to comply with court orders between January 2013 and January 2014.
Adding more to it Minister for Communication and IT, Kapil Sibal said, “Social networking sites were requested to block 8, 21, 352 URLs during 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively and 1,299 URLs up to January 31, 2014 including 2013 to comply with court orders.”
The minister also informed to the house that a total of 362 URLs were blocked in 2012 of which 312 URLs were blocked in a single instance during the North East tensions. Besides a total of 62 URLs were blocked by invoking process of the government under Section 69A ((Section 69A of the IT Act, 2000 empowers government to block any information generated, transmitted, received, stored or hosted in any computer resource in interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence relating to the above.)) during 2013.
According to Sibal, “The webpages were hosting objectionable information and had the potential to disturb the public order in the country and block access to public in the country on the request of law enforcement agencies.”
Prior to this in December, 2013 in another written reply to Lok Sabha, Sibal had informed that Government had so far asked social networking sites to block 1,208 URLs. In other words in a matter of a month the government has ordered additional 91 requests for blocking objectionable content.
During the same time, the minister had detailed the process of blocking content where by Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) gets requests for blocking of objectionable content from individuals and organizations, which it forwards to the social networking sites for appropriate action. He also added that, “There is no institutional monitoring mechanism for monitoring social networking sites.”
The interesting bit to note here is that the country has already deployed a Centralised Monitoring System (CMS), a replica of NSA’s Prism which has the potential of tracking every individual’s online and mobile activities. Additionally another monitoring system Netra is being developed by the Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics (CAIR), a lab under Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO).
Content blocking requests have massively increased globally. Recently Twitter in its Transparency Report H2 2013 informed that it received 19 account information, 8 removal requests and 54 accounts were specified by the requests from the Indian Government. However, Twitter withheld 13 tweets with no accounts being withheld.
While Twitter is facing challenges to be transparent, it would be interesting to watch what Facebook will have to share considering the network is the most popular one with 93M monthly active users in the country.
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