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SciTech India Puts Tight Leash on Internet Free Speech

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by spnadmin, May 1, 2011.

  1. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    MUMBAI, India — Free speech advocates and Internet users are protesting new Indian regulations restricting Web content that, among other things, can be considered “disparaging,” “harassing,” “blasphemous” or “hateful.”

    The new rules, quietly issued by the country’s Department of Information Technology earlier this month and only now attracting attention, allow officials and private citizens to demand that Internet sites and service providers remove content they consider objectionable on the basis of a long list of criteria.

    Critics of the new rules say the restrictions could severely curtail debate and discussion on the Internet, whose use has been growing fast in India.

    The list of objectionable content is sweeping and includes anything that “threatens the unity, integrity, defense, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states or public order.”

    The rules highlight the ambivalence with which Indian officials have long treated freedom of expression. The country’s constitution allows “reasonable restrictions” on free speech but lawmakers have periodically stretched that definition to ban books, movies and other material about sensitive subjects like sex, politics and religion.

    An Indian state, for example, recently banned an American author’s new biography of the Indian freedom fighter Mohandas Gandhi that critics have argued disparages Mr. Gandhi by talking about his relationship with another man.

    Although fewer than 10 percent of Indians have access to the Internet, that number has been growing fast — especially on mobile devices. There are more than 700 million cellphone accounts in India.

    The country has also established a thriving technology industry that writes software and creates Web services primarily for Western clients.

    Even before the new rules — known as the Information Technology (Intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2011 — India has periodically tried to restrict speech on the Internet. In 2009, the government banned a popular and graphic online comic strip, Savita Bhabhi, about a housewife with an active sex life. Indian officials have also required social networking sites like Orkut to take down posts deemed offensive to ethnic and religious groups.

    Using a freedom of information law, the Center for Internet and Society, a Bangalore-based research and advocacy group, recently obtained and published a list of 11 Web sites banned by the Department of Information Technology. Other government agencies have probably blocked more sites, the group said.

    The new Internet rules go further than existing Indian laws and restrictions, said Sunil Abraham, the executive director for the Center for Internet and Society. The rules require Internet “intermediaries” — an all-encompassing group that includes sites like YouTube and Facebook and companies that host Web sites or provide Internet connections — to respond to any demand to take down offensive content within 36 hours. The rules do not provide a way for content producers to defend their work or appeal a decision to take content down.

    “These rules overly favor those who want to clamp down on freedom of expression,” Mr. Abraham said. “Whenever there are limits of freedom of expression, in order for those limits to be considered constitutionally valid, those limits have to be clear and not be very vague. Many of these rules that seek to place limits are very, very vague.”

    An official for the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, an advocacy group based in New Delhi, said on Wednesday that it was considering a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the new rules.

    “What are we, Saudi Arabia?” said Pushkar Raj, the group’s general secretary. “We don’t expect this from India. This is something very serious.”

    An official at the Department of Information Technology, Gulshan Rai, did not return calls and messages.

    The rules are based on a 2008 information technology law that India’s Parliament passed shortly after a three-day siege on Mumbai by Pakistan-based terrorists that killed more than 163 people. That law, among other things, granted authorities more expansive powers to monitor electronic communications for reasons of national security. It also granted privacy protections to consumers.

    While advocates for free speech and civil liberties have complained that the 2008 law goes too far in violating the rights of Indians, Internet firms have expressed support for it. The law removed liability from Internet intermediaries as long as they were not active participants in creating content that was later deemed to be offensive.

    Subho Ray, the president of the Internet and Mobile Association of India, which represents companies like Google and eBay, said the liability waiver was a big improvement over a previous law that had been used to hold intermediaries liable for hosting content created by others. In 2004, for instance, the police arrested eBay’s top India executive because a user of the company’s Indian auction site had offered to sell a video clip of a teenage couple having sex.

    “The new I.T. Act (2008) is, in fact, a large improvement on the old one,” Mr. Ray said in an e-mail response to questions.

    Mr. Ray said his association had not taken a stand on the new regulations. An India-based spokeswoman for Google declined to comment on the new rules, saying the company needed more time to respond.

    Along with the new content regulations, the government also issued rules governing data security, Internet cafes and the electronic provision of government services

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/28/technology/28internet.html?scp=1&sq=India Internet&st=cse
     

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  3. Mai Harinder Kaur

    Mai Harinder Kaur
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    This is the header of my blog. It shows a smiling Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale ji waving at the animated flag of Khalistan flying over the Indian Parliament Building in New Delhi. I wonder if my sense of fun in overdrive will annoy someone in the Indian government? My sitemeter tells me I do have regular visitors with a good ol' GOI ISP. Even discarding those, though, the plurality of my readers are from India.

    And I am one of many, although few have quite my panache. My blog is small and of little importance in the wider scheme of things and perhaps not as inflammatory as the header might suggest, but it makes me wonder about many, even most Sikh websites. I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.
     
  4. Mai Harinder Kaur

    Mai Harinder Kaur
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    The full text of this law can be found at http://www.mit.gov.in/sites/upload_files/dit/files/due_dilligance4intermediary07_02_11.pdf

    In fact, due to the importance of this, I reproduce it here!

    Draft Rules - Due diligence observed by intermediaries guidelines
    Page 1 of 4

    [To be published in THE GAZETTE OF INDIA, EXTRAORDINARY, Part II,
    Section 3, Sub-section (i) of dated the ----------, 2011]
    Government of India
    MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
    (Department of Information Technology)
    NOTIFICATION
    New Delhi, the ------------, 2011
    G.S.R. ……. (E).― In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (zg) of subsection (2) of section 87, read with sub-section (2) of section 79 of the Information

    Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000), the Central Government hereby makes the
    following rules, namely: ―
    1. Short title and commencement.― (1) These rules may be called the Information
    Technology (Due diligence observed by intermediaries guidelines) Rules, 2011.
    (2) They shall come into force on the date of their publication in the Official
    Gazette.
    2. Definitions.― In these rules, unless the context otherwise requires,--
    (a) “Act” means the Information Technology Act, 2000 (21 of 2000);
    (b) “Blog” means a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with
    regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such
    as graphics or video. Usually blog is a shared on-line journal where users
    can post diary entries about their personal experiences and hobbies;
    (c) “Blogger” means a person who keeps and updates a blog;
    (d) “Computer resource” means computer resource as defined in clause (k) of
    sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Act;
    (e) “Cyber security incident” means any real or suspected adverse event in
    relation to cyber security that violates an explicitly or implicitly applicable
    security policy resulting in unauthorised access, denial of service or
    disruption, unauthorized use of a computer resource for processing or
    storage of information or changes to data, information without authorisation;
    (f) “Data” means data as defined in clause (o) of sub-section (1) of section 2 of
    the Act;
    (g) "Electronic Signature" means electronic signature as defined in clause (ta) of
    sub-section (1) of section 2 of the Act;Draft Rules - Due diligence observed by intermediaries guidelines

    (h) “Indian Computer Emergency Response Team” means the Indian Computer
    Emergency Response Team appointed under sub section (1) of section
    70(B) of the Act;


    (i) “Information” means information as defined in clause (v) of sub-section (1) of
    section 2 of the Act;
    (j) “Intermediary” means an intermediary as defined in clause (w) of sub-section
    (1) of section 2 of the Act;
    (k) “User” means any person including blogger who uses any computer
    resource for the purpose of sharing information, views or otherwise and
    includes other persons jointly participating in using the computer resource of
    intermediary.
    3. Due Diligence observed by intermediary.— The intermediary shall observe
    following due diligence while discharging its duties.-
    (1) The intermediary shall publish the terms and conditions of use of its
    website, user agreement, privacy policy etc..
    (2) The intermediary shall notify users of computer resource not to use,
    display, upload, modify, publish, transmit, update, share or store any
    information that : —
    (a) belongs to another person;
    (b) is harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, blasphemous,
    objectionable, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, pornographic,
    paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or
    racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable, disparaging, relating or
    encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in
    any manner whatever;
    (c) harm minors in any way;
    (d) infringes any patent, trademark, copyright or other proprietary rights;
    (e) violates any law for the time being in force;
    (f) discloses sensitive personal information of other person or to which the
    user does not have any right to;
    (g) causes annoyance or inconvenience or deceives or misleads the
    addressee about the origin of such messages or communicates any
    information which is grossly offensive or menacing in nature;
    (h) impersonate another person;
    (i) contains software viruses or any other computer code, files or
    programs designed to interrupt, destroy or limit the functionality of any
    computer resource;

    Draft Rules - Due diligence observed by intermediaries guidelines
    Page 3 of 4
    (j) threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India,
    friendly relations with foreign states, or or public order or causes
    incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence or prevents
    investigation of any offence or is insulting any other nation.
    (3) The intermediary shall not itself host or publish or edit or store any
    information or shall not initiate the transmission, select the receiver of
    transmission, and select or modify the information contained in the
    transmission as specified in sub-rule (2).
    (4) The intermediary upon obtaining actual knowledge by itself or been brought
    to actual knowledge by an authority mandated under the law for the time being
    in force in writing or through email signed with electronic signature about any
    such information as mentioned in sub-rule (2) above, shall act expeditiously to
    work with user or owner of such information to remove access to such
    information that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing
    activity. Further the intermediary shall inform the police about such information
    and preserve the records for 90 days.
    (5) The Intermediary shall inform its users that in case of non-compliance with
    terms of use of the services and privacy policy provided by the Intermediary,
    the Intermediary has the right to immediately terminate the access rights of the
    users to the site of Intermediary.
    (6) The intermediary shall follow provisions of the Act or any other laws for the
    time being in force.
    (7) The intermediary shall not disclose sensitive personal information.
    (8) Disclosure of information by intermediary to any third party shall require
    prior permission or consent from the provider of such information, who has
    provided such information under lawful contract or otherwise.
    (9) Intermediary shall provide information to government agencies who are
    lawfully authorised for investigative, protective, cyber security or intelligence
    activity. The information shall be provided for the purpose of verification of
    identity, or for prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution, cyber security
    incidents and punishment of offences under any law for the time being in force,
    on a written request stating clearly the purpose of seeking such information.
    (10) The information collected by the intermediary shall be used for the
    purpose for which it has been collected.
    (11) The intermediary shall take all measures to secure its computer resource
    and integrity of information received, stored, transmitted or hosted shall be
    ensured.

    Draft Rules - Due diligence observed by intermediaries guidelines
    Page 4 of 4
    (12) The intermediary shall report cyber security incidents and also share cyber
    security incidents related information with the Indian Computer Emergency
    Response Team.
    (13) The intermediary shall not deploy or install or modify the technological
    measures or become party to any such act which may change or has the
    potential to change the normal course of operation of the computer resource
    than what it is supposed to perform thereby circumventing any law for the time
    being in force.
    Provided that the intermediary may develop, produce, distribute or
    employ technological means for the sole purpose of performing the acts of
    securing the computer resource.
    (14) The intermediary shall publish on its website the designated agent to
    receive notification of claimed infringements.
     
    #3 Mai Harinder Kaur, May 3, 2011
    Last edited: May 4, 2011

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