CAT | India
India recently announced that all ISPs in the country will be required to block a list of over 800 websites. They claim all of these were for pornography or child pornography, but it turns out that was not the case for all of them. In the face of a massive backlash, the telecom ministry first said this was no big deal because people could use VPN services to bypass the censorship. They later down entirely. (more…)
The NYTimes.com reports that Kapil Sibal, the acting telecommunications minister for India is pushing Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook to more actively and effectively screen their content for disparaging, inflammatory and defamatory content.
Specifically Mr. Sibal is telling these companies that automated screening is insufficient and that they should have humans read and approve allmessages before they are posted.
This demand is both absurd and offensive.
- It is obviously impossible for these companies to have a human review the volume of messages they receive, the numbers are staggering.
- The demand for human review is either evidence that Mr. Sibal is completely ignorant of the technical realities involved, or this is an attempt to kill social media and their associated free wheeling exchanges of information and opinion.
- There is no clear objective standard for “disparaging, inflammatory, and defamatory” content, so the companies are assured of getting it wrong in many cases putting them at risk.
- The example of unacceptable content sighted by Mr. Sibal is a Facebook page that maligned Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi suggesting that this is more about preventing criticism than actually protecting maligned citizens.
As an extension of their policy of pushing for access to encrypted communications on RIM BlackBerry devices, they are now demanding access to data from both Google and Skype. India is demanding that Skype and Google install servers within India so the government can access the information on Indian users.
Obviously bad guys can trivially bypass this through the use of VPNs and by taking care to use servers located outside of India. The real impact will be to open all legitimate Internet users to universal surveillance.
According to the CNET article, the Indian government is going to put off shutting down BlackBerrys in their country while they study a RIM proposal to allow government monitoring of the communications.
In this case, it is not the search engine, but their social networking site “Orkut” which is the issue. Google’s troubles stem less from their actions than the fact that they are the dominant social networking site in India, and so most of those issues happen on that site.
Google has been forced to take down a lot of content, and hand over the identities of many posters. If the examples in the article are to be believed, the threshold for censorship is not high.
At the risk of repeating myself, if you live in India and you want to say something that might push or cross the line, do it with robust anonymity technology. You might still have your post taken down, but they can’t come after you.