India Blocks Websites, Blogs After Terror Attacks

The Indian government has blocked about 20 websites and blogs in India, following suspicions by the country’s intelligence agencies that the sites were likely being used by terrorists to communicate with each other.

ISPs received instructions over the weekend from the government’s Department of Telecommunications (DOT) to block about 20 URLs, said Deepak Maheshwari, secretary of the ISP Association of India in Delhi. The orders did not indicate why the URLs were being blocked, he said.

The move to block the sites may be related to the bomb blasts in trains in Mumbai earlier this month, which killed about 190 people and injured around 700. Government sources were not immediately available for comment.

A group of bloggers, called the BloggersCollective, has been formed to monitor the block on the websites and blogs, and to influence opinion against the move by the Indian government.

Under India’s Information Technology Act of 2000, websites can be blocked if they are found to be promoting hate, violence, terrorism or pornography.

Although the instructions from the DOT list specific pages and websites, several ISPs have blocked some blogs altogether because they were not equipped to filter specific pages, Maheshwari said.

The Indian government set up the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IND) in 2003 with the authority to block websites. On receiving instructions from CERT-IND, DOT, which has regulatory control over the ISPs, has to ensure that the websites are blocked, and inform CERT-IND accordingly.

Although some Indian bloggers insist on their right to continue to blog without hindrance, there is a strong section of opinion even among bloggers that it may be necessary to block some sites if it will help foil terrorist attacks. A post on The Great Indian Mutiny asked for more maturity from users, arguing that the issue was not one of freedom of speech, but only a temporary security measure.

-John Ribeiro, IDG News Service (Bangalore Bureau)

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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