[Marxism] India Blocks Several Web Sites Many of Which Are Blog Homes (WSJ)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Fri Jul 21 05:49:52 MDT 2006

(Would like to hear from readers of these messages in India what
is the significance of these recent moves by India's government.)

July 19, 2006
India Blocks Several Web Sites,
Many of Which Are Blog Homes
By ERIC BELLMAN in Mumbai and PETER WONACOTT in New Delhi
July 19, 2006; Page A8

India's Internet regulators have started blocking several Web sites
in a move that borrows a page from China, where government censors
heavily restrict the flow of online information.

India's Department of Telecommunications sent an order late last week
to Internet-service providers to block several Web sites, according
to a department spokesman. The spokesman, Rajesh Malhotra, declined
to disclose the contents of the letter or discuss the order, saying
it was a "confidential exchange of information between the department
and the operators."

Several telecom operators confirmed there were more than 15 sites
they were directed to block. Close to a third of the sites were home
to blogs, the personalized Web logs that have become popular in
India, just as they have in other parts of the world. Among the Web
sites blocked are parts of Blogger and GeoCities. Included on a list
seen by The Wall Street Journal are sites that showcase views of an
Islamic holy man, conservative Hindus, and Dalits, the low caste in
India pejoratively referred to as untouchables.

The Internet-service providers declined to explain how the sites were
blocked or whether all Internet users in India would be affected.

The government blacklist follows last Tuesday's commuter-train
bombings in Mumbai, which killed an estimated 207 people. It isn't
clear if the move was related to the blasts, which Indian government
officials said they suspect came from Islamic militants based inside
neighboring Pakistan.

India, the world's largest democracy, has generally eschewed efforts
to block citizens from obtaining information or from expressing their
views. But following the Mumbai bombings, the government has come
under renewed pressure to toughen its policing of potential security
threats and improve intelligence gathering.


A partial list of Web sites blocked by the Indian government

1) http://hinduhumanrights.org
(2) http://HinduUnity.org
(3) http://mypetjava.mu.nu
(4) http://bloodroyal.tripod.com
(5) http://thepiratescove.us
(6) http://clickatel.com
(7) http://rahulyadav.com
(8) http://blogger.com
(9) http://blogspot.com 
Source: WSJ research

Bloggers said the government order represented an inconvenience more
than a firm blockade, as they could find other ways to access the
banned sites. Yet some said they are confused as to why their sites
have been singled out.

Rajneesh Rallan, a Mumbai-based lubricants manufacturer, says he
can't access his personal site on blogger.com, and his friends and
family with blogs on the same site are also being blocked from his
site. His site extols the benefits of synthetic lubricants and
introduces his favorite European movies and directors.

"There is nothing dangerous on my site," says Mr. Rallan, adding that
his mother's personal site on blogger.com can't be accessed, either.

A spokeswoman for Google Inc., which owns Blogger, said, "We are
currently looking into the situation to determine whether, and why,
this has taken place." A spokeswoman for Yahoo Inc., which owns
GeoCities, also said the company was looking into the matter.

India's restrictions echo those made by other governments that have
viewed the freedom of online information as a possible threat to
their security. In China, for instance, authorities have been trying
to tame the Internet almost since its arrival. The techniques used to
police and censor content have become increasingly sophisticated, as
have efforts by Chinese Internet users to circumvent government
controls. One common method is to direct Chinese mainland Internet
users to overseas proxy servers, so they can avoid government
firewalls to access prohibited content from home.

The cat-and-mouse contest has pulled in some U.S. Internet companies,
which have been criticized for cooperating with the Chinese
government. Google launched a Chinese-language search engine that
omits links Beijing doesn't like. Yahoo created an uproar by
providing information on a Chinese account holder who was later
jailed. And Microsoft Corp. shut down a Chinese-language blog that
had criticized the Chinese government's media controls.

-- Binny Sabharwal in Mumbai and Kevin J. Delaney in San Francisco
contributed to this article.

More information about the Marxism mailing list