censorship, IGF, Internet, NetNeutrality, News

S0PA: 387 Indian ISPs must block 104 piratical websites

Indian ISPs ordered to block 104 Websites image from arstechnica.comThe recent Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), considered and eventually abandoned by the US Congress after rancorous debate earlier this year, proposed giving judges the power to cut off American access to particular websites. Under the initial version of the bill, judges would have been able order Internet service providers to use only crude tools like DNS blocking to make piratical websites harder to access. The proposal was criticized strongly on grounds of practicality, due process, and free speech, but major rightsholders want such approaches implemented worldwide. In India, they have succeeded.

A Kolkata court has ordered all 387 Internet providers in the country to block a list of 104 websites after the Indian Music Industry (IMI) filed suit against them. Indian Music Industry officials filed information with the court showing that each of the 104 sites hosted at least some infringing material; the judges ruled that site blocking was a proper way of dealing with the issue. Four injunctions—on January 27, February 6, March 1, and March 2—implemented the blacklist.

Every one of the sites targeted by the music industry was ordered blocked. IMI officials have insisted to local media that they are targeting only the worst offenders, saying that they began their process with 300 websites and eventually narrowed it down to 104 of the most flagrant infringers.

As for how the blocks will be implemented, the court has allowed Internet providers three options: blocking by DNS name (“arstechnica.com”), blocking by IP address (“”), or URL blocking by deep packet inspection (which can do things like block specific links like “arstechnica.com/bollywood”).

But site blocking on the Internet, though it sounds so seductively easy, comes with its own set of problems. Blocking by DNS can be circumvented simply by entering a site’s actual IP address instead of its name. Blocking by IP address can be bypassed by moving a site to a new server that carries a new IP address. URL blocking has little effect when an existing site simply changes its name.

These are hardly esoteric technical secrets. One of the first sites to be blocked, “songs.pk,” has rebranded itself “songspk.pk.” Confused users who turn to a Google search for answers will already find that link number one for “songs.pk” directs them to the new site.

Truly blocking sites from the Internet in this fashion remains difficult, though as usual the goal is more about making infringement more difficult than curtailing all illegal activity. European courts have on occasion required specific sites to be blocked, but those rulings have tended to target one site at a time, and have often been applied only to a single Internet provider. The Indian approach is far broader, and Internet companies like Facebook and Google are coming under legal pressure to censor far more material, including obscene images of gods and goddesses.

The first list of 104 sites largely focuses on regional music; it includes sites like apunkabollywood.com, bollywoodmp4.com, and lovepaki.com. IMI promises that its next targets will include more general-purpose file-sharing sites, however.

Reproduced from arstechnica

IFPI, the international music trade group, welcomed the ruling—but insisted that even such measures did not go far enough. “The court ruled that blocking is a proportionate and effective way to tackle website piracy,” said IFPI chief executive Frances Moore. “The Indian government should build on this progress by moving forward legislation to effectively tackle all forms of digital piracy to enable the country’s digital music market to reach its full potential.”



censorship, Civil Liberties, Core Internet Values, Future of Internet, IGF, News

India to set up agency to scan tweets, emails and updates

India to scan tweets, updates and emailThe government is setting up an internet scanning agency which will seek to monitor all web traffic passing through internet service providers in the country. The scanning agency to be called National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC), will issue ‘actionable alerts’ to government departments in cases of perceived security threats.

… According to the minutes of ameeting held on February 3, 2012, at the National Security Council Secretariat under the PMO, the National Cyber Coordination Centre will ‘scan whole cyber traffic flowing at the point of entry and exit at India’s international internet gateways’. The web scanning centre will provide ‘actionable alerts for proactive actions’ to be taken by government departments.

All government departments will now talk to the Internet Service Providers such as Bharti Airtel, RCOM, BSNL, MTNL and Tata Communications through NCCC for real time information and data on threats.

More at Techgig

censorship, Civil Liberties, News, surveillance

Locking up cyberspace in Pakistan

Bytesforall says this: The Government of Pakistan has repeatedly exhibited the obsession to lock up the Pakistani cyberspace at every given chance. The reasons for doing so are myriad and diverse, but mostly, they revolve around the same unjustifiable excuses like upholding national security, war on terror and/or religious morality. In order to do these, the government continuously impose and compromise citizen’s fundamental rights including freedom of expression, opinion and access to information hampering all socio-economic activities connected with the Internet. In an under-developed country like Pakistan this becomes the sheer wastage of resources and tax payers’ hard earned money. Unfortunately, there are no legal protections available for citizens or any mechanisms to regulate such actions by the Government & civil society’s engagement for transparency and accountability.

In a recent development, on 23 February 2012, the National ICT R&D Fund has placed an advertisement in the press, calling relevant national and international service providers, companies to submit proposals “for the development, deployment and operation of a national level URL Filtering and Blocking System”.

Little words are required to describe the magnitude of this disastrous move if it gets implemented. Quoting one requirement from the National ICT R&D Fund website, “Each box should be able to handle a block list of up to 50 million URLs (concurrent unidirectional filtering capacity) with processing delay of not more than 1 milliseconds” shows that what kind of capacity Government is planning to acquire for filtering the Internet content in Pakistan. Most interestingly, this filtering will be governed by one very vague terminology that is ‘undesirable content’.

Read more at bytesforall


Civil Liberties, News, surveillance

Government of India to have DIRECT Access to all your phone conversations

Secure tapping mechanism ready

Soon the Centre would have direct access to all your telephone conversations as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has developed capabilities to intercept phones without keeping your operator in the loop. Currently, trials are on in Delhi and Haryana through a main server established in the national capital. It would take another 12 months before the system is officially operational.

Government of India, at the highest level decided to set up a Central Monitoring System (CMS) to tap calls without the interference of telecom service providers. Subsequently, the DoT’s Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring (TREM) Cell along with the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) was asked to develop the project for which Rs.170 crore was earmarked. After almost one year, the CMS is ready and being tested.

Exclusive facility

“This is the DoT’s exclusive facility that would assist intelligence and security agencies, besides strategic government departments in phone-tapping,” a senior DoT official said. …

Complex system

The present system of phone-tapping is a complex one as eight intelligence and investigating agencies wanting to snoop on anybody’s phone are required to approach the Union Home Ministry for clearance with specific reasons. Armed with necessary clearances, the department officials would then approach the telecom operators for tapping phones. … However, in the new mechanism, the DoT will have total control of a tapped line, giving telecom firms no access to the intercepted line.

Another important aspect of the new centralised system is that irrespective of operators, lines would be tapped at one location, which will be manned round-the-clock by officials of the government agencies.

from The Hindu



censorship, Civil Liberties, Core Internet Values, News

Press freedom rank for India drops from 105 in 2009 to 131 last year

Following are excerpts from a Washington Post article titled “India debates limits to freedom of expression”



From Google to Facebook, from world-famous author Salman Rushdie to a little-known political cartoonist, it has become increasingly easy in recent months to offend the Indian government, and to incur the wrath of the censor or even the threat of legal action.

In the world’s largest democracy, many Indians say freedom of expression is under attack, and along with it the values of pluralism and tolerance that have bound this nation of 1.2 billion people together since independence from Britain more than 64 years ago.

India’s democracy is nothing if not raucous. The huge array of newspapers and 24-hour television news channels are often vociferous in their criticism of politicians. But the media’s determination to root out corruption in the past two years has prompted a backlash. Talk of more stringent regulation is mounting.

… perhaps the most shocking episode for advocates of freedom of expression has been the government’s attempt to muzzle Facebook and Google — and prosecute the companies’ executives — for content posted on their sites deemed to be offensive. “Like China, we can block all such Web sites,” warned the judge hearing the case in the Delhi High Court.

The government cites images insulting to one or another of India’s religions, content it says could provoke unrest. It is up to social media sites, the government says, to manually screen and censor all potentially offensive content or face prosecution.

…Sunil Abraham at the Center for Internet and Society says the government’s proposals on Web censorship would kill the vibrancy of the Internet in India. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales warned that they would scare off investors and crush the country’s potential to become a true leader in the Internet industry.

The irony, according to critics, is that the concern over religiously offensive content was little more than an excuse: What appears to have really offended the ruling Congress party were defamatory images of their idolized leader, Sonia Gandhi.

“The myth that is spread is that the government is acting against hate speech and obscenity. But when the government acts to control information on the Internet, it is usually defamatory or potentially defamatory content against people and politicians,” Abraham said.

Almost a year ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the media were undermining the nation’s self-confidence by harping on official corruption. Since then, talk of tighter media regulation has grown louder.

And despite the vibrancy of India’s mainstream English-language media, the country’s ranking on the press freedom index of the journalism advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has dropped, from 105th in 2009 to 131st last year.

Read more in Washington Post