#India – KEEP CALM and #66A ON #censorship #FOE #FOS


Graphic novelist Vishwajyoti Ghosh casts a mirthful eye on what we might confront on our ultimate day on this planet exclusively for TOI-Crest

Anonymous #OPindia hacks Kapil Sibal’s website


PTI

A file photo of Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal.
The Hindu A file photo of Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal.

Nov 30,2012

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal’s personal website has been hacked and defaced allegedly by Anonymous India group for the minister’s stand on IT Act.

The website www.kapilsibalmp.com was on Thursday attacked and contents were altered to show the minister in poor light.

Mr. Sibal, who represents the Chandni Chowk constituency in Parliament, uses this portal to interact with his constituency.

While most of the website has been restored, certain sections such as blogs, gallery, speeches and conversation were still not working.

While no official comment was immediately available, a source in the minister’s office said the website is an old one and had not been updated for sometime now.

The Twitter account of Anonymous India (@opindia_revenge), a group against Internet censorship and curbs on free speech, said Mr. Sibal’s site was getting “trolled“.

“The time to sit silently is gone. Call your friends and get them to protests sites,” said a link posted on the Twitter handle.

Meanwhile, the government on Friday said about 294 websites belonging to various ministries and government departments were hacked in the January-October 2012 period.

“A total number of 201, 303, 308 and 294 websites belonging to various ministries and departments in the government were hacked during the year 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 (till October), respectively,” Minister of State for Communications and IT Milind Deora said.

Internet blocks, freedom of expression and reasonable restrictions


 

Nikhil Pahwa, of  http://www.medianama.com/ writes on FB
Four points I made yesterday at the FICCI organized meeting with the IT Secretary R. Chandrashekhar and CERT-in Head Gulshan Rai on IT Rules, Internet blocks, freedom of expression and reasonable restrictions  (from my scribbled notes):
1. I’m concerned about the broad phrases included in the IT Rules which make illegi

timate censorship of content on the web legitimate, and bring in the scope for unreasonable restrictions. There needs to be specificity in the IT Rules and the broad phrases which allow intermediariesto block content on the web need to be changed/revisited because they create the medium for abuse of the rules as and when the government/a regulator wants.2. Lack of transparency leads to lack of trust. People need to know what has been blocked, why it has been blocked, who has taken the decision to block it, and what is the process of getting the block removed (if it is my page). When citizens visit a blocked page, there should be all of this information for that specific page. Transparency will ensure accountability. (In my haste, a point I’ve made before but forgot to make here – there needs to be a public list of blocked sites maintained by the government).

3. Recourse needs to be established. If my page is blocked, there needs to be adequate protection for me, as a creator of content, a citizen and a business. It’s not possible for me to go to court in each instance, to get a block removed. Let the complainant go to court to validate his complaint within a specified time period, for which the block remains active. If not, the block should be removed. (Someone also mentioned a counter notice mechanism, which I think is fair).

4. Limitations need to be put on the actions of intermediaries when it comes to blocking. The state’s job is to not just prevent malicious content, but also to protect the rights of citizens, in terms of freedom of expression. After Anonymous India hacked into the servers of one intermediary (ISP/Telco), it was revealed that several of the links blocked had not been mandated by courts or the government, but were those critical of the intermediary. This means that ISPs are themselves potentially curtailing freedom of expression online, and this needs to be looked into.

One of the key points I remember being made was about the government also sticking to the rules, because it appears that in the recent blocks, they haven’t followed due process, even though Mr Rai repeatedly claimed that they have, (alarmingly) even with respect to the blocking of some media reports like that on Al Jazeera.

 

For the sake of free speech- Save your Voice Campaign


Creative professionals go on hunger strike to protest against Internet censorship

SUJATHA SUBRAMANIAN, The Hindu

GATHERING MOMENTUM:Save Your Voice activists sitting on a hunger strike.Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

GATHERING MOMENTUM:Save Your Voice activists sitting on a hunger strike.Photo: Shanker Chakravarty

The possibility of a scenario where the government not only has access to every Indian citizen‘s Facebook posts, Skype conversations, private photographs and can also censor tweets, blogs and online conversations has created outrage among citizens, particularly ‘netizens’.

The most recent attack on freedom of speech and expression has been in the form of the Information Technology (Intermediary Rules) 2011, which require that intermediaries, such as a website host, including social networking sites and search engines, do not host, display, share or publish information deemed as objectionable. On receiving a complaint by an aggrieved person, the intermediary site is liable to act within 36 hours and remove the content, without prior notice.

A group of like-minded individuals, who have come together under the ‘Save Your Voice’ campaign, are on a hunger strike protesting against IT Rules 2011.

The group, comprising writers, artists and musicians, had earlier organised a protest and sat inside cages set up at Jantar Mantar on April 22, with the slogan ‘Freedom in the Cage’, symbolising how the IT Rules ‘caged’ the freedom of the people granted by the Constitution.

“The empowerment that social media provides has begun to be seen as threatening. This is an attempt to clamp down on an individual’s right to dissent and his freedom of expression,” said journalist Alok Dixit here on Saturday, continuing with the fourth day of hunger strike at Jantar Mantar According to Mr. Dixit, the rules would also force the Internet Service Provider (ISP) to create vast databases of sensitive information about an individual which would then be available to the government.

The group is attempting to create awareness regarding the censorship inherent in the IT Rules and gather support for the annulment motion filed by Rajya Sabha MP P Rajeev against the rules. The motion is expected to come up in this budget session. Mr. Dixit said: “No site will run risk of being dragged to court to protect the rights of an individual. The Government is holding the intermediaries responsible so that it can exert power over the citizens in an indirect, insidious way.” The campaign was launched after cartoonist Aseem Trivedi’s website http://www.cartoonsagainstcorruption.com was closed down, without any prior notice, by Big Rock, the web portal that hosted his website.

On further investigations, it was discovered that a complaint against his site had been lodged with the Mumbai Cyber Crime Cell.

Mr. Dixit said: “We understand that the Government deems certain content as capable of inciting violence and as being against national interest. But every site has always had mechanisms to deal with such content. What aggrieves us is the draconian way in which it is trying to clamp down on any form of free expression or dissent. Such regulations also do not allow an individual to understand why certain content has been termed objectionable or what an individual can do to retrieve his site. An individual’s intellectual property should not be tampered with in this manner.” The campaign for free speech and expression has gained momentum after the recent case where a professor from Jadavpur University was arrested and booked under the IT Act for posting an “objectionable” cartoon on a popular social networking site.

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Raised voices against Internet censorship


Raised voices against Internet censorship

STAFF REPORTER, The  Hindu

Students and IT professionals performing a skit against the ‘clampdown on freedom of speech’ online. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy
The HinduStudents and IT professionals performing a skit against the ‘clampdown on freedom of speech’ online. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

It’s a regular day at the Parappana Agrahara prison in Bangalore. The media has arrived to interview high profile criminals held there. Among politicians accused of land grabbing and corruption, and industrialists, is a young boy. When asked what he had done to land up there, he says: “I blogged.” The media and other “high-profile” criminals scoff at him for not being “criminal enough”.

This was the plot of one of the skits performed outside Town Hall, where a young, energetic crowd gathered to protest against the “clampdown on freedom of speech on the Internet”.

Over 100 people participated in the protests, including IT workers and students from engineering colleges here.

The protest was organised by the Free Software Movement of Karnataka (FSMK), in collaboration with the Software Freedom Law Centre. The performances, singing and short speeches delivered by students and bloggers culminated in a candle light vigil here.

Senthil S., a software engineer and FSMK member, said there was clear evidence now, with cases such as that of the professor in West Bengal and the government’s requests to take down political content, that political dissent (online) was being stifled.

“It’s absurd to censor. We want this silly law to be withdrawn,” says Deepthi, an IT professional, referring to the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011. Raghuram, an FSMK member said: “We aren’t against censorship of hate speech. But allowing monitoring of all that we say breaches my privacy.”

Immediate Release–New list of Enemies of the Internet


English: A map showing the level of Internet c...

Image via Wikipedia

REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS

Beset by online surveillance and content filtering, netizens fight on

Eritrea is among the list of “countries under surveillance”

Read more on Eritrea on http://en.rsf.org/eritrea-eritrea-12-03-2012,42060.html

More information on the full report on 12mars.rsf.org

To mark World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, Reporters Without Borders is today releasing its new list of “Enemies of the Internet” and “countries under surveillance.” This report updates the list released in 2011.

Two countries, Bahrain and Belarus, have passed from the “countries under surveillance” to the “Enemies of the Internet” category. Venezuela and Libya have been dropped from the “under surveillance” category while India and Kazakhstan have been added to it.

“The changes in this list reflect recent developments in online freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Netizens have been at the heart of political changes in the Arab world in 2011. Like journalists, they have tried to resist censorship but have paid a high price.

“Last year will be remembered as one of unprecedented violence against netizens. Five were killed while engaged in reporting activity. Nearly 200 arrests of bloggers and netizens were reported in 2011, a 30 per cent increase on 2010. These unprecedented figures risk being exceeded in 2012 as a result of the indiscriminate violence being used by the Syrian authorities in particular. More than 120 netizens are currently detained.

“On World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, we pay tribute to the ordinary citizens who often risk their lives or their freedom to keep us informed and to ensure that often brutal crackdowns do not take place without the outside world knowing.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “As online censorship and content filtering continue to accentuate the Internet’s division and digital segregation, solidarity among those who defend a free Internet accessible to all is more essential than ever in order to maintain channels of communication between netizens and to ensure that information continues to circulate.”

Social networks and netizens versus filtering and surveillance

The last report, released in March 2011, highlighted the fact that the Internet and online social networks had been conclusively established as tools for organizing protests and circulating information in the course of the Arab world’s mass uprisings. In the months that followed, repressive regimes responded with tougher measures to what they regarded as unacceptable attempts to destabilize their authority.

At the same time, supposedly democratic countries continue to set a bad example by yielding to the temptation to put security above other concerns and by adopting disproportionate measures to protect copyright. Technical service providers are under increasing pressure to act as Internet cops. Companies specializing in online surveillance are becoming the new mercenaries in an online arms race. Hactivists are providing technical expertise to netizens trapped by repressive regimes. Diplomats are getting involved. More than ever before, online freedom of expression is now a major foreign and domestic policy issue.

Two new Enemies of the Internet – Bahrain and Belarus

Bahrain and Belarus have joined Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam in the “Enemies of the Internet” category. These countries combine often drastic content filtering with access restrictions, tracking of cyber-dissidents and online propaganda.

Bahrain offers an example of an effective news blackout based a remarkable array of repressive measures: keeping the international media away, harassing human rights activists, arresting bloggers and netizens (one of whom died in detention), smearing and prosecuting free speech activists, and disrupting communications, especially during major demonstrations.

As Belarus sinks further into political isolation and economic stagnation, President Lukashenko’s regime has lashed out at the Internet in response to an attempted “revolution via the social media.” The Internet was blocked during a series of “silent protests,” the list of inaccessible websites grew longer and some sites were the victims of cyber-attacks. Internet users and bloggers were arrested or invited to “preventive conversations” with the police in a bid to get them to stop demonstrating or covering demonstrations. And Law No. 317-3, which took effect on 6 January 2012, gave the regime additional Internet surveillance and control powers.

India and Kazakhstan added to “under surveillance” list

Since the Mumbai bombings of 2008, the Indian authorities have stepped up Internet surveillance and pressure on technical service providers, while publicly rejecting accusations of censorship. The national security policy of the world’s biggest democracy is undermining online freedom of expression and the protection of Internet users’ personal data.

Kazakhstan, which likes to think of itself as a regional model after holding the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010, nonetheless seems to be turning its back on all its fine promises in order to take the road of cyber-censorship. An unprecedented oil workers strike helped to increase government tension in 2011 and led to greater control of information. The authorities blocked news websites, cut communications around the city of Zhanaozen during unrest, and imposed new, repressive Internet regulations.

Venezuela and Libya dropped from “under surveillance” list

In Libya, many challenges remain but the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime has ended an era of censorship. Before his removal and death, Col. Gaddafi had tried to impose a news blackout by cutting access to the Internet.

In Venezuela, access to the Internet continues to be unrestricted. The level of self-censorship is hard to evaluate but the adoption in 2011 of legislation that could potentially limit Internet freedom has yet to have any damaging effect in practice. Reporters Without Borders will nonetheless remain vigilant as relations between the government and critical media are tense.

Thailand and Burma may be about to change places

If Thailand continues further down the slope of content filtering and jailing netizens on lèse-majesté charges, it could soon find itself transferred from the “under surveillance” category to the club of the world’s most repressive countries as regards online freedom.

Burma, on the other hand, could soon leave the “Enemies of the Internet” list if takes the necessary measures. It has embarked on a promising period of reforms that have included freeing journalists and bloggers and restoring access to blocked websites. It must now go further by abandoning censorship altogether, releasing the journalists and bloggers still held, dismantling the Internet surveillance apparatus and repealing the Electronics Act.

Other subjects of concern

Other countries have jailed netizens or established a form of Internet censorship. They include Pakistan, which recently invited bids for a national Internet filtering system that would create an Electronic Great Wall. Even if they are not on these lists, Reporters Without Borders will continue to closely monitor online freedom of information in countries such as Azerbaijan, Morocco and Tajikistan.

Tweet, Tweet Justice: Company’s Censorship Policy Probed


twitter logo map 09

twitter logo map 09 (Photo credit: The Next Web)

By Meg Roggensack
Senior Advisor, Business and Human Rights, Human Rights First

In her 2010 landmark speech on internet freedom, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton laid out her vision for one internet where access to information isn’t defined by geographic boundaries or political regimes. Today, that vision is even more remote, as evidenced by Twitter’s recent announcement that it would comply with host governments that wish to censor messages.

Twitter made clear that it will censor only after legal review, be transparent about its decisions unless precluded by local law, and ensure that messages censored in one country are available in others. These are important steps and align with commitments made by the tech companies that belong to the Global Network Initiative (GNI). This also puts Twitter on the same side as other companies trying to address the human rights impacts of their global ICT operations – as opposed to those who are not even in the conversation.

But is Twitter’ s policy adequate? Does it propel Secretary Clinton’s vision forward? We at Human Rights First think Twitter is on the right path, but can do better – by making clear the principles for evaluating the legitimacy of requests, and by mounting tough challenges to requests that conflict with national and international guarantees of free expression.

As Secretary Clinton observed in her speech, “The internet will be what we make of it…we need to [take affirmative steps to] synchronize our technological progress with our values.” This can only happen if Twitter and other companies in the ICT sector work harder to realize this vision of a single, unified internet. We’re concerned that Twitter’s new policy is likely to encourage more censorship, not less.

How will Twitter’s new policy affect the overall integrity of its global service? Will there be any jurisdiction where the entirety of Twitter’s messages will be available to users, as Secretary Clinton envisioned, or will Twitter’s service be a Swiss cheese of big and small holes, reflecting censorship preferences around the globe?

Twitter has proven in the past that there’s a better way to handle these requests. It successfully challenged a U.S. federal court’s gag order associated with Wikileaks and then informed the targets of the subpoena so that they could challenge the order. In conveying its new policy, Twitter should make clear that it will aggressively challenge these restrictions, based on available national and international rights guarantees. Many authoritarian governments have broad constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and/or have signed on to international treaties. Twitter should use these guarantees to elaborate and publish its criteria for screening such requests, and should mount constitutional challenges when pressed. This would leave no doubt about Twitter’s commitment to internet freedom.

Twitter was instrumental to the Arab Spring as one of the few platforms that activists could use to organize and disseminate their views. One year later, Twitter’s role in bringing about political reform is even greater. As Human Rights First heard from a prominent Egyptian pro-democracy leader two weeks ago, Twitter has become the platform for activists. It is easy to use, quick, and searchable.

Without the ability to freely view and post tweets, Twitter’s users, including pro-democracy and human rights activists, can’t communicate, organize, and advocate in real time. Even if the rest of us are able to read tweets that repressive governments censor, tweets that are not accessible to the original posters and their networks are deprived of their utility and transformative power.

Twitter should build on the important safeguards it has announced. And Twitter’s dilemma should spark all ICT companies to think carefully about how the choices they make today will affect the internet we use tomorrow.

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