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India: Blocking access to Blogs on Blogspot and Typepad in India

Categories: South Asia, India, Digital Activism, Freedom of Speech, Protest, Technology

I have been exercising considerable restraint before posting on the issue of blocking of [1]Blogspot.com [2], Typepad.com [3] and Geocities.com [4] in India. It all started around the 13th of July, when some people complained that they weren't able to access their blogspot blogs. Since the service is known to have been down on previous occassions, it was only on the 15th that the issue picked up some momentum. Mridula, unable to access a particular blog called up the service centre [5]

I contacted the Spectranet callcenter and this is big, they confirmed that they have blocked the site because they have a letter from Ministry of communication! I wish I had heard it worng. Call your ISP providers that are blocking it and check it out for yourself.

Initially, a lot of bloggers dismissed these claims, but over the weekend more such reports began streaming in. DesiPundit [6] has been tracking the blogs with posts on the issue. Saket writes about the Indian Government doing a Big Brother [7].

To be honest, blogs don’t really matter that much in India. The blogosphere hasn’t matured enough to have any real impact on Indian society. I’d like to imagine that most bloggers and blogsurfers are young urban folks. The sorts which make noises at times, but can never be a significant threat to the government. The government can do what it pretty much wants to do. If they don’t like it, bloggers can babble as much as they want to. Nobody cares.

A very comprehensive guide to seeking information from the government on the issue on basis of the Right to Information Act [8]. Dina Mehta shares the letter she wrote to her ISP [9] and CERT-IN (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team). Amit has a post on circumventing the block – for publishing as well as reading [10]. He also does a quick FAQ for bloggers and blog-readers on the block [11]. Sepia Mutiny [1] tells us why the terrorists have won. Ultrabrown [12] points to the inherent danger in relying on some of the web-based services.

These repeated incidents are also a cautionary tale about the dangers of relying on Web apps centralized on a small handful of domains. What’ll you do when your government blocks Gmail?

A hilarious post by Anand at Mdeii Life [13] on how he discovers how the blogs on his blogroll are all written by terrorists.

Apparently, (it is as yet unconfirmed) but people generally are of the opinion that, the government is indeed blocking blogs in a crackdown on terrorists. I really never knew terrorists blogged, that was until now. I quickly ran through my blogroll and started reading many blogs between the lines, and horror of horrors, quite a few of them are in fact… terrorist! (The Horror! The Horror!) … I wholeheartedly support the government's crackdown on terrorist-blogging. By severely curtailing free speech, we shall forever be free from fear and terror…. Let us show our middle finger to blog-terror in the full confidence that they will never be able to use proxies to circumvent this very astute act of Indian intelligence.

What appeared to be on the 15th just some ISPs blocking access, on Monday, in a matter of about two hours, five to six more ISPs started blocking the above stated sites. People could still publish to their blog via Blogger.com [14], but not see their blog at Blogspot.com [2]. Shivam shares his experience, calling up government officials to get some sort of response from them [15].

Finally I managed to get through to Dr Gulshan Rai. He was downright rude. He said he
couldn’t understand what my problem was, and in any case he could not solve it on phone.

Me: “So should I send you an email?”
(which, btw, I already did last night, to CERT-IN)

Gulshan Rai: “Do whatever.”So that’s that for now.

Ethan writes on India joining an elite club [16]. Vijay Rao wonders if the block is restricted to major cities [17] only. A little more humour and irony to the rescue via Dhoomketu [18].

Secondly, I must also thank you for ignoring Livejournal and WordPress. Those are second-rate platforms and I am happy that by banning Blogspot you have clearly showed that those other two platforms don't matter. Somewhere, Larry Page and Sergey Brin would be smiling a lot.

Brough wonders why the Mainstream Media in India is not reacting [19]. Meanwhile, I am doing pretty regular updates on my blog Within / Without [20] (shameless plug). Patrix questions the logic [21] in blocking technology or anything else because terrorists use them.

Let us take the government’s argument a bit further and help them in curtailing the menance of terrorism by blocking or banning stuff. Let them outlaw all use of cell phones because if you have seen RGV’s Company, you know that you can run an entire gang from Malaysia. Terrorists use cars to make a hasty retreat so lets ban cars in major cities.

Many Indian Bloggers are now collaborating here to find ways circumvent the block and address the issue by working together [22] to figure out how the block can be lifted. I find it particularly interesting that one of the ways of accessing blogs is to go to http://pkblogs.com [23], which was set up by Pakistani bloggers to help them circumvent the block in their country. Check this wiki for updates on the ISPs and what bloggers are saying [24].

Tomorrow is another day and a different IP. Hopefully though the block would have disappeared. Someone do the rope trick. Quick!