India: MPs against Internet blockades and for blocking Whatsapp & Co.

The responsible committee in India’s parliament has criticized the practice of regular internet blocks in the country and called for clearer rules and the examination of possible alternatives. That is in a report by the Standing Committee on Information Technology, which was published last week.

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In it, the MEPs point out the immense importance of the Internet for the population and ask for clarification as to whether it would be technically possible, where necessary only to block services that “would probably be used by terrorist and anti-social elements”. Instead of always blocking the entire Internet, it would be a great relief if only services such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Telegeam would be blocked. India is considered a world leader when it comes to internet blockades.

Internet blocking is a popular tool for local and national authorities in India, for example to counter waves of protests. On the page internetshutdowns.in information on more than 550 such blockades has been compiled since 2012, and from 2017 the number has increased significantly again.

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In 2018 there were 134 such bans, in 2020 a further 129. 44 are listed for this year, the most recent from yesterday’s Monday in the state of Nagaland in the far east. The unrest region of Kashmir has been hardest hit for years with over 300 Internet blockades. After protests in late summer 2019, the internet was completely paralyzed there, and the last associated restrictions in the region were only lifted a year and a half later.

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The fact that India repeatedly reacts to protests, unrest and other forms of civil disobedience by blocking the Internet, while other democratic states manage completely without such restrictions, makes the country appear in a bad light. now criticize the MPs. So far there is also no evidence that the Internet blocking is an effective means of ensuring public safety.

The committee therefore calls on the government to investigate. In view of court decisions, clearer rules for the introduction of a block and its termination are necessary. Finally, the MPs suggest checking the blocking of individual services such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Telegram in order to minimize public restrictions in the event of a blockade. Until then, everything should be done to ensure uninterrupted access to the Internet.


(mho)

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