New Delhi: On Wednesday, the Department of Telecommunications issued orders to Internet service providers in the country to block 32 websites on December 16, compliance of which was effected on the same day.
According to Government sources, the sites had alleged anti-India content from groups such as Islamic State or ISIS.
“We have blocked some websites as there were serious national security concerns,” said a government official.
“The websites that have been blocked were based on an advisory by Anti Terrorism Squad, and were carrying anti-India content from ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria),” Arvind Gupta, head of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s information technology cell, said in a message on Twitter.
“The sites that have removed objectionable content and/or cooperated with the ongoing investigations, are being unblocked,” he added.
If Internet service providers (ISPs) don’t comply with the demand, they are liable to being penalized, the order said.
However, social media users erupted in fury over the blocking of sites like Vimeo, Dailymotion, Pastebin and, for some reason, Internet Archive and Github – one an archive and the other a collaborative programming service.
— Pranesh Prakash (@pranesh_prakash) December 31, 2014
Redditors in India: United We Stand have been discussing the blocks on Reddit threads confirming that some of the listed sites have been blocked by Vodafone, BSNL, ACT Fibrenet, Hathway Cable & Datacom LTD. (Bangalore), among others.
This is not the first time the government has cracked down on websites. A recent report by Freedom House, an independent watchdog, said the information ministry received a total of 130 court orders to block Web content between February 2009 and December 2013.
In February 2014, the then minister of communication and information technology told Parliament that 62 URLs were blocked in 2013 under Section 69A for hosting objectionable information with the potential to disturb public order.
As many as 82 URLs were blocked on 18 September 2013 in addition to 26 blocked a week earlier after violence escalated between Hindu and Muslim communities in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. A total of 362 URLs were blocked in response to communal violence in the northeast, the report said.