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NE Unrest: Government blocks 245 web pages; threatens legal action against Twitter

The Government of India has blocked 245 web
pages for inflammatory content which contained images and videos mostly
morphed, aimed at targeting people of North East. Meanwhile, the government has
also threatened legal action against micro-blogging site Twitter and could also
seek assistance from US authorities to track down offensive material posted on

The Government of India has blocked 245 web
pages for inflammatory content which contained images and videos mostly
morphed, aimed at targeting people of North East. Meanwhile, the government has
also threatened legal action against micro-blogging site Twitter and could also
seek assistance from US authorities to track down offensive material posted on
websites in order to get such content pulled off.

The Department of Electronics &
Information Technology had issued an advisory on 17 August 2012 to all the
intermediaries including national and international social networking sites,
advising them to take necessary action to disable such inflammatory and hateful
content hosted on their websites on priority basis.

However, such inflammatory and harmful
content continued to appear on the social networking sites despite the advisory
and request made by the Department of Electronics & Information Technology.
The circulation of hate messages and availability of inflammatory and harmful
content led to disturbance of peace and harmony at several places in the
country causing threat to life and national security.

The web pages hosting such content inciting
violence and creating law and order problem were identified. Keeping in view
the sensitivity and need for restoring peace, harmony and public order, the
Government on recommendation of Ministry of Home Affairs issued orders under
section 69A of the Information Technology Act 2000 directing intermediaries
including international social networking sites to block 76 web pages on
18.08.2012, 80 web pages on 19.8.2012 and 89 web pages on 20.8.2012.

These intermediaries and international
social networking sites were also requested to provide registration details and
access logs of the person who uploaded such content. The initial response from
international social networking sites indicates that such content have been
hosted from outside the country and to a large extent from a neighbouring
country (Pakistan).

An intermediary social networking site has
responded that the up-loaders of the inflammatory and hateful content are
outside the jurisdiction of the country, thereby implying that they are not
obliged to take any constructive step to deal with it. The proxy servers and
Virtual Private Network (VPN) services which hide the user identity operating
from number of countries appear to have been used for uploading the content.
The agencies are continuously monitoring hosting of such inflammatory and
harmful content.

When asked if the government could consider
legal action against Twitter, R Chandrashekhar, Secretary, Department of
Telecommunications said, “Absolutely . It also includes action with regards to
the services they provide within the country, it  includes actions to revenues accrued within
the country and regarding the damages caused within the country.”

According to Chandrashekhar, Twitter has been
slow in their responses to the government’s complaints and it may be because
they don’t have any offices in the country. On Twitter we have had particular
problems, it may be in part because they don’t have an office in India, but the
response from Twitter in particular has been extremely poor.  Many of the sites that should be blocked have
not been blocked.”

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