India blocks access to 32 websites
The Indian government recently blocked access to websites due to warnings about terrorism. Critics pointed out that this is not the first time the country has banned sites.
Advice from anti-terrorism squad to block access
The Indian government blocked access to 32 websites based on advice from its anti-terrorism team, reported Live Mint. The blocked websites were primarily file, video and source code sharing sites like dailymotion.com, github.com, vimeo.com and archive.org. Arvind Gupta, head of Bharatiya Janata Party's Information Technology Department, indicated through Twitter that the sites were blocked in order to stop communications with terrorism groups.
"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]," said Gupta,
according to Live Mint.
Backlash from Internet users
The blocking of sites was met with harsh criticism from Internet users. In response, Gupta tweeted another message saying that the sites would be accessible again, if they acquiesce to government requests to remove certain content.
"The sites that have removed objectionable content and/or cooperated with the ongoing investigations, are being unblocked," Gupta added.
Indian legislation gives the government the authority to block access to websites if they are deemed a threat to the integrity, independence or security of the country. If the government advises sources of information to prevent access to certain content, and they disobey, those sources are subject to fines and prison terms, noted Live Mint.
Although the ban was supposedly lifted, Pastebin notified the press that their site is still blocked by the Indian government, reported the Times of India. Github and DailyMotion users have also found that they cannot gain access. Vodafone is not displaying error messages and is simply blocking access – a sign that it is not merely a connectivity issue.
Not the first time sites are blocked
Live Mint also reported that, as per a Freedom House report, between February 2009 and December 2013, the information ministry received 130 court orders to block Internet content. In February 2014, the minister of communication and information told Parliament that sites were blocked due to objectionable content with the potential to disturb public order.
Tech Crunch indicated that India's government tried to censor entertainment sites before because of "unsuitable" content. While the most recent ban on sites may be motivated by anti-terrorism precautions, ultimately India is a country that is not afraid to censor its Internet.