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Internet Policing in India

Yes, it has happened. While we were so busy fighting PIPA, SOPA and all other acts that threatened freedom on the internet, we ignored the events brewing in our own backyard. It is with great sorrow that I write about the sad state of freedom in India.

Yes, we are free. Yes, the constitution declares that we are sovereign. The people are sovereign. The representatives of the people are sovereign. Consequently, the parliamentarians are sovereign. Hence, they are in a position to bring about draconian acts that curb freedom of speech, acts which benefit them and them only, acts which make it illegal for you or me to criticise the government; yet, we must bow down and accept meekly, cause the parliament is sovereign, and anyone questioning the sovereignty of the parliament is a traitor and anti-national.

I've always found India to be a strange place, and the series "It happens only in India" on this weblog, under which the current post too is filed, is a collection of things that I find strange, and have had time to write about. While a post on the parliamentary system is long due, a message in my web-browser while hunting for tutorials for Blender said

Access to this site has been blocked as per Court Orders
Why would a court want to ban access to tutorials for a popular, free and open source 3D animation software?

I found this extremely strange. Why would a court want to ban access to tutorials (released either in the public domain, or under creative commons licenses) for a popular, free and open source 3D animation software? However, later in the day, reality sunk in, with the internet abuzz with horror filled stories of how popular websites were banned by ISPs on the basis of a John Doe order. The trouble with John Does is that they are used by people so dastardly, they prefer to hide behind pseudonyms and anonymity.

The trouble with John Does is that they are used by people so dastardly, they prefer to hide behind pseudonyms and anonymity.

A lot of searching on the internet did not yield conclusive results. Everyone seemed to agree that websites including Vimeo, Daily Motion, Pastebin, along with a number of torrent websites could not be accessed. The reasons were unclear. One stream of thought claimed that a copyright firm called (applause at the creativity expressed here) "Copyright Labs" had filed an order with the Madras High Court, asking that distribution of illegal copies of the movie "3" be stopped.

The other stream, and the one I subscribe to, said that Reliance Entertainment was responsible. I think this is more likely, as Reliance Communication was one of the first ISPs to implement the ban.

Whatever be the reason, I see no way to justify the ban. So the court implemented it. The court ought to be responsible, and ought to have a good reason behind its actions and judgements, right? Sadly, this belief held by me and many others has been questioned put through the third degree in recent (?) days. Judgements on 2G scams notwithstanding, the court has also elevated the assertions of a man who has hurled the vilest abuse, advocated violence, and lauded the British rulers--by citing them in its judgement, with manifest approval.

Banning entire websites because some people use them to distribute infringing content is akin to banning knives because some people use them to kill others. Hang on; murder is not as grave an offence as copyright infringement. Big money is involved in copyrights; while lobbying for better protection of copyrights is legitimate business in the US, it's still done under the table here.

Banning entire websites because some people use them to distribute infringing content is akin to banning knives because some people use them to kill others.

The ban is just the tip of the iceberg. Not long ago, the minister for Human Resource Development (ironic, since he does not qualify as a "resource", anthropophagy being illegal in India) wanted to set up a team of people to monitor comments on social networking websites, and prevent any "harmful" comments from being published. (Pause for a moment while you get back on your chair after rolling on the floor laughing your arse off.)

What prompted the government to read the nonsense spewed by a billion people? Apparently, some politically aware youth (yes, such people exist) had shared some cartoons critical of the "Mistress". The travesty must be stopped. The people are sovereign. The representatives of the people are sovereign. The majority of the representatives of people are sovereign. Consequently, the Mistress is sovereign. Anyone critical of the sovereignty of the Mistress, consequently, is anti-national and anti-people.

The people are sovereign. Consequently, the Mistress is sovereign.

Right now, the government has brought in the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules. These rules call for censoring content that is "grossly harmful", "harassing", "blasphemous" (this bit is really funny, cause we don't have a blasphemy law in India), "defamatory", "disparaging" along with a number of other ambiguous terms. As I previously blogged, almost anything can fall under these terms. Does this mean that the internet ought to be shut down in India?

Just last October, the Government moved a proposal in the United Nations to have a 50 nation strong team to govern the internet. Laughable, as it shows the ignorance of the Government on the workings of the internet, but we can hardly expect any intelligence from people who make it a point to descend to increasingly vulgar displays in an effort to show that they are like the आम आदमी, the common man.

The policy of the government on the Internet and a variety of issues seems anti-citizen. On one hand, the government is brazenly opposing the freedom of speech of citizens who have access to the internet. What this means is that in the future, I would not be able to write my mind freely, I would not be able to continue this blog within India. It would mean that we would have to use "extraordinary means" to access "ordinary" information and to achieve "ordinary" ends. It means that the government would have us all turn felons if we were to use our right to freedom of speech on the internet.

But then, does the आम आदमी have access to the internet? Can the आम आदमी afford access to the internet on 30 rupees as day (around 50 cents a day)? So, the only people with access to the internet are the bad-bad middle class. They have, since time immemorial been denying the आम आदमी the progress that is due to him. They are troublesome. They are aware and educated. They criticise the government on various policy issues. The conclusion is clear. They are anti-national and anti-people.

No, the आम आदमी is sovereign. Anyone representing the आम आदमी is sovereign. Consequently, the majority of the people representing the आम आदमी is sovereign. Consequently, the "Mistress" is sovereign. The middle class is just vermin sucking away the benefits due to the आम आदमी. The middle class pays taxes, and then demands good roads, better hospitals, better sanitation. Are they effing crazy? That is not what the आम आदमी wants.

The आम आदमी just wants to feel that he is being discriminated against by the other. And this the polity provides in abundance. So, it is the middle class that has held up progress of the आम आदमी. English and Computers discriminate against the आम आदमी, the common man, so let's ban English education and Computers from the workplace.

When I first wrote about the website ban on Google+, I received the following comment

What the hell is going on with Indian politicians at the moment? With the amount of IT talent in India at the moment they should play to that strength and open the net as much as possible!

I still have a bruise on my forehead from when I fell off my chair laughing. If only the Government worked that way...

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