Access in India blocked to Blogspot, Typepad

UPDATE: Indeed, logging on from home, we can’t get to individual Blogspot pages.

In response to Melissa’s comment, it’s not just people in the tech community but particularly bloggers because they have a means of publication and voice in their own hands: they are media participants. It’s not a matter of making people feel safe, but cutting off a means of organization and network for the people they believe are behind the bombings. What’s at issue here are two things: 1) censorship and 2) a heavy-handed and rather uneducated approach to the ban– where the Indian government says there’s a problem with 12 radical sites (demanding its people explain why they need to view these sites), not realizing or caring that these sites are platforms that power millions of blogs, most of which have nothing to do with organizing attacks, or even India. Comments on some blogs liken it to analogies like this: “terrorists drink water–let’s cut off the water supply for everyone.” I might say it’s like blowing up the house to kill the cockroach.

Via my colleague Udai and Boingboing:

In the wake of last week’s attacks in Mumbai and reports that the Students Islamic Movement of India (which is believed to have been involved in the attacks) uses blogs to coordinate, it appears the Indian Department of Telecommunications has issued directives to ISPs to block access to twelve sites. Among these sites are major blog platforms and
hosting services, including Blogspot, Typepad and Geocities.The ISPs following the block include the most major telco conglomerates like TATA and Airtel. (There doesn’t seem to be a ban at our offices. But in our flat, our ISP is Airtel. I’ll check tonight and see what I find.)

Reports the Hindustan Times:

Officials defended the decision saying, “We would like those people to come forward who access these (the 12) radical websites and please explain to us what are they missing from their lives in the absence of these sites.”

The problem’s been coming to light since the weekend. Dina Mehta and a number of others have posted about it on their respective blogs. Jace gives a good description of the situation, According to Jace, CERT-IN (Computer Emergency Response Team-India) is the only body that can block websites but the DoT routinely hands off lists of URLs to block.
There are comments on some of these blogs stating that it’s an “operation” and all will be back to normal by the 19th. But finding out information hasn’t been easy — a CERT official, once reached, was not exactly polite to one blogger.

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?”

Gulshan Rai: “Do whatever.”

So that’s that for now.

Information about the ban is being culled on one hand by bloggers, who update information on the Bloggers Against Censorship wiki– this includes ISPs blocking sites, workarounds, press coverage, blogs protesting the ban. (Some bloggers in India may be getting kicked off these wikis).

Particularly interesting to me is the fact that the ban (or “blackout,” or “operation”) is not affecting all of India, but apparently, just urban areas. People outside cities aren’t necessarily experiencing these blocks; one source says certain rural areas are not included.

Very sad that India is conducting such a blanket ban without considering that these “12 sites” might power millions of blogs. Even if this “operation” ends soon, what is the aftermath?

3 Replies to “Access in India blocked to Blogspot, Typepad”

  1. not being in the tech community myself, I find it interesting how much the tech community bans together whenever they feel their rights have been infringed upon (not a judgement call, really, more of an observation). All I can say is that fear can be a crazy motivator. I can also understand a frustrated government wanting to appear to DO something in order to make people feel “safe”…even if it seems unfair and unjust to those who are still thinking rationally and critically. So my question is this: are the government officials trying to make the general populas feel safer in the aftermath of the bombings or are they simply trying to appease all of those who are greiving by acting in a vengeful way? Or am I assuming too much?

  2. Censorship is certainly an infringement and violation of rights. I was merely commenting on the way the community of bloggers seems to come together in the face of this censorship. I have not seen (maybe I haven’t been paying close enough attention) to similar groups in the US ban together in the face of their civil rights being attacked, censored or eroded…
    I also think that governments are percieved as being held liable or accountable when a terroristic act occurs
    on “their watch”. Therefore, I think a government will respond in a way that does not make sense and possibly punishes many for the mistakes of a few.

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