Sunday, October 05, 2003

Should Net Groups be Blocked

This refers to the debate in ET today on "Should Net Groups be Blocked?"

In this debate, Mr DC Nath (Ex-Special Director, Intelligence Bureau) makes a point about curbing the "anti-national" groups from using the net to the detriment of the national security. Some may agree with him, too.

However, he seems to be quite ignorant about context of present blocking of the yahoogroups:

Firstly, even if GOI was within its rights to ask the ISPs to block the yahoogroup moderated by the Meghalaya-based "Kynhum", it is also equally responsible and accountable (being a democratically elected government) to ensure that its directives are implemented without hurting the ordinary citizens. Most ISPs have blocked access to the entire yahoogroups. Mr Nath seems to be ignorant that there are more than 1mn yahoogroups, which are forums for people to exchange knowledge/ideas/opportunities on subjects ranging from AIDs, e-governance, scientific enquiries, business, etc. to entertinment, college alumni, etc... Read this article to appreciate the variety and size of the yahoogroups network...

.. What GOI has managed to achieve is burning the entire field to kill a rat!!

Secondly, his statement that blocking access to group site is "within bounds of law" is false and misleading - and definitely shows his ignorance. The concerned site is hosted on a US server, and not in India. By no stretch of International Law, can a country ask a site to be blocked, which is hosted in another country... his arguments tatamount to something like US govt asking to block The Economic Times Website, because it contains a report from Reuter, which is critical about US Govt.

and Lastly - and most importantly - he seems to be supporting a censor on any net-based voice which challenges the local government on issues of corruption and ineptitude, and thus raising questions about the democratic nature of our country. The concerned site - Kynhum - was a year old group site with a member ship of around 30 members (it has gone to around 200 now, due to publicity GOI gave it free of cost), which only questioned the present state administration - through a newsletter "The Voice" - on issues like mining in ecologically sensitive areas, or transfer of a government hosital to a trust owned by the present Chief Minister, etc... Mr Nath's use of term "anti-national" seems to be pretty indiscriminate and is equivalent to asking us the accept the power of the "Big Brother".

What should be troubling to many of us as concerned citizens, is the nature of powers (inordinate and without any accountability) which have been given to CERT-IN through GSR529(E), dated July 7 2003. According to this directive, the CERT-IN can "take on the spot decision on whether the website is to be blocked or not’’. Moeover, neither the producers of the website nor those holding a differnet view can get a hearing (are we living in democracy??)... Worse, the the GOI order does not even accept this as censorship. The governemnt order reads: "Blocking of such websites may be equated to balanced flow of information and not censorship."!!!!

Mr Nath's views substantatiate the fears which many citizens have - that the ordinary citizen is being governed by people have have no clue about internet - or the country.

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