Why Mumbai Police Blocking 650 Social Media Posts Featuring #CharlieHebdo Cartoons Make No Sense

Why Mumbai Police blocking over 650 posts and pages on social networking site of controversial cartoons featured in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo makes no sense


Right now France is in a state of crisis – while it is mourning the loss of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo shooting, the country’s security forces are trying to capture the two armed gunmen who are on the run after the killing.

On 7th January 2015, two masked and heavily armed gunmen entered the offices of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which has attracted worldwide attention for its regular depictions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and killed the editor Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, eight other Charlie Hebdo employees, and two National Police officers, while 11 others were wounded.

The killings have created an uproar both in the offline and online world. While it has brought back the widespread debate on freedom of expression, the killings have also been justified on the face of provocation and insult of Islam.

By and large the innocent killings did not find any encouragement in India but Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Yakub Qureshi has found himself on the media spotlight after he had praised and announced Rs. 51 crore reward for the gunmen who attacked Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office. However it is now being reported that Uttar Pradesh Police is conducting raids to arrest him.

Meanwhile the Mumbai Police has been on an alert after the French crisis situation. There isn’t any intelligence report of such attack in our country’s leading publishing houses, but the police is on alert by blocking controversial posts. “We are on alert. We are blocking every controversial post/page that we come across,” Mumbai police spokesperson Dhananjay Kulkarni said to HT.

Spotted earlier by Medianama, within 24 hours of the incident, the police blocked over 650 posts/pages on a popular social networking site for uploading controversial cartoons featured in the magazine. After the Charlie Hebdo shooting, Mumbai police intelligence was alerted about the developing situation, with a clear instruction to rummage through handles and posts and fish out those putting up controversial cartoons.

“We are in constant touch with the authorities managing the server of a popular networking site based in the United States of America (USA) to immediately block such posts and provide us with the IP address of the account holders,” Kulkarni said, adding that offenses would be registered on complaints.

While Kulkarni chose not to name the popular networking site based in US, it isn’t rocket science to not be able to guess it. Facebook with more than 100 million active users/month from India has been at loggerheads for blocking controversial content. However, the Mumbai Police can only filter content and report it to Facebook to have it blocked. With no local servers in India, the police can only wish that Facebook blocks all the content listed by them.

Besides putting filters and blocking all content makes no sense. We have seen earlier how the filtering of social media does no good. Meanwhile, is the Mumbai Police blocking all those contents that show solidarity to #CharlieHebdo like the ones listed below:

Of late the Indian Government has been on a rampant spree to block websites and content without no rhyme or reason. Besides Kulkarni’s statement that offenses would be registered on complaints is scary and brings back the debatable and controversial IT Act 66A, which has been rampantly misused at political will.

The other problem that was highlighted earlier to Lighthouse Insights during the Pune tensions last year, the police department mostly wakes up during such tensions and knows only one thing – block/filter social media, even if the root cause might lie somewhere else.

However, there is a silver lining to the Swachh Internet supported by Ravi Shankar Prasad. Highlighted by Scroll, the blocking of porn in the country will promote the use of VPN culture in India as it is rampant in countries where internet is filtered/blocked. “Surfing the net without a VPN is like having sex without condoms, as the AIDS literature about to be filtered out of the Indian internet will tell you. So, by blocking online porn, the government will also inadvertently teach citizens how to protect their privacy online.”

Image credit: Twitter