Yes. The honorable Government of India has blocked access to a number of leading blog hosting domains, including the vastly popular Blogspot. The reason? It wanted to block sites related to terrorist activities. Now connect that with Blogspot, and you could get a seat in the Parliament for yourself.
We, the people of India, are most unfortunate to be ruled by a government that is clueless about blogs. Tell me what percentage of the ruling body actually knows what a blog is. No, not the definition. How it operates, its implications, but above all, what a blog means to its owner. They never knew, and they shall never find out. Yet they pass blind orders like these today, blocking major blog domains. They claim that they are only trying to reduce terrorism. Ask them what they did in the field of security. Ask them why it is so easy to bomb trains in a place like Mumbai. They have no answer to that. They are, however, ever-ready in proving their expertise at tackling terrorism by blocking sites. Little do they know that it’s the same thing as telling an athlete not to run, snatching palette, paint and canvas from an artist, and preventing an author from touching his pen. Little do they know what implications these blockings hold for us bloggers.
It’s a mad, mad government out there.
The full report as on The Statesman:
Bloggers can’t be choosers in India
NEW DELHI, July 18: Over this weekend, India had something more in common with China than a high economic growth rate. Breaking with its stated policy of freedom of speech, the government cracked down on several websites and asked Internet Service Providers to block access to them.
The banned sites include hugely popular blogspot.com, typepad.com and geocities.com. All three sites host millions of blogs. The blocking of the sites started, as Soumyadip ~ a blogger who uses Blogspot put it ~ “on Friday night,” when he was unable to access his blog through his Exatt connection. By Saturday the word was going around the blogging community that Blogspot, Typad and Geocities were inaccessible.
“I initially thought that it might be a server problem, but when I tried going through an anonymiser site, the blogs were opening fine. It struck me that there must be some blocking going on somewhere,” he said. The bloggers have lashed out at the government move. Though there are indications that the government only wanted to block some sites related to terrorist activities, in an ill-implemented move, it succeeded in blocking whole domains such as Blogspot.
And the worst part is that most of the ISPs are still in denial. A senior MTNL official said on condition of anonymity that this whole talk of censorship is a “misconception”. He said, “as far as I know MTNL has not banned Blogspot, and they are accessible.”
But when The Statesman tried to access the Blogospot pages using an MTNL account, they were still inaccessible. That the ban is genuine was proved by a senior manager at a private ISP. He said, “We are merely following Department of Telecom orders which came last week and because we do not have capability to selectively ban a site or portion of site, we had to ban full domains”.
Mr Rajesh Malhotra, director of public relations at DoT refused to comment. He said only Mr MS Mathur, secretary, DoT, can look into the matter. When contacted, Mr Mathur refused to comment saying that he would not talk about it as he was not at his office. Bloggers have responded by moving to other avenues.
Peter Griffin, the celebrated blogger behind blogs such as Tsunami Blog said it’s a “silly ban” that cannot be imposed on Internet. “It’s a ban ordered by clueless politicians who have no idea how the Internet works, passed on by clueless bureaucrats to clueless technical staff at ISPs,” he added.
Griffin said: “The government should have informed people by telling them the reasons behind banning a blog.”
Most bloggers have started blogging from other blog hosting sites like WordPress and Live Journal which surprisingly have not been banned, while many of them are accessing their blogs through public proxies. Ironically, pkblogs.com ~ a site launched by Pakistani bloggers to access their blogs when they were banned in their country ~ is being used by their Indian counterparts too.
While talking about waging a cyber crusade, some bloggers are also suggesting use of the Right to Information Act to know why they have been deprived of a medium that is essentially meant for freedom of expression.
Notwithstanding the problems faced by thousands of bloggers in India, the high-handedness of the government is sure to tarnish India’s image in the foreign media. By Tuesday afternoon most of the world’s major blogger bastions like BoingBoing.com and Digg.com were discussing the censorship. Mainstream media such as The Inquirer and The Guardian were also slamming the move.
At Digg, one user named CaptainSparrow wrote: “For a democracy like India, this is a shame… censoring is different from blocking/banning… if media ain’t free, fear creeps in… and it wont be a democracy no more… can’t watch India walking in the footsteps of China.” OB Kenobi throws in his bit as he says: “Maybe we should block all those Indian customer service outsourcers”.
The situation is best summed up by Mr Griffin when he said: “The whole world will be laughing at India and its obvious incompetence and lack of knowledge reflected in an ill-conceived and poorly executed Internet ban.”
“I can just hope that somebody within the Indian government would be sensible enough to realise their folly before its too late,” he added.