India Uncut

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Soon, you may not be able to see Blogspot blogs

(I'm post-dating this post to make it sticky. It was originally posted at 3.56 pm, IST, July 17. Regular programming continues below.)

In India, that is. The block on Blogspot blogs that I mentioned here seems to be spreading across ISPs, and if you find you can't visit my blog any more, here are a number of things you can do. [Update: The block has spread, and most ISPs in India have blocked all Blogspot, Typepad and Geocities domains.]

One, subscribe to India Uncut via Bloglines. You should be able to see at least my posts regularly, though not my blogroll and so on. I use Bloglines myself, and recommend it.

Two, use This was set up to enable Pakistani residents to view Blogspot blogs after a ban on them there.

For more ways to circumvent the ban, hop over to Amit Agarwal's post on the subject.

Update: To my horror, it seems that this may not be a false scare. Airtel reps told Amit that they have received government orders to block Geocities sites, just as Spectranet chappies had told Mridula that they'd got orders to block Blogspot, and a lot of ISPs seem to have blocked Blogspot, Typepad and Geocities sites. I hope it's just a kneejerk reaction by some clueless babu that is soon corrected. I hope we don't go the China way.

Update 2: For the latest on this, please follow the wiki and the email group we've set up for this purpose.

Update 3: Chacko writes:
Two sources, one inside the Government of India and the other kind of inside/outside have confirmed to the Mutiny, that ISPs are being instructed to ‘control’ access to blogspot. It seems that some blogs are being used by some terror units (read SIMI) to communicate.

There is a crack down in place. IP numbers are being physically located and identified. All should come back to normal once this operation is over. [...]

Now I know you are not going to believe this, so I’m going to quote what she said, “This operation is limited to certain parts of India. Bloggers in Andaman, Nicobar and Lakhsadeep islands are not affected.”
So if you're in Port Blair, no problem!

Update 4 (July 18): The Indian Express story on the subject lists some of the blocked domains, and confirms the suspicion that in trying to block a particular blog on Blogspot, the ISPs blocked the entire domain. Here:
Though the communication, dated July 13, by the telcom department to ISPs lists specific pages/ websites, several ISPs have blocked all blogs because they were not equipped to filter specific pages. This could be because all websites hosted on, for instance, have the same IP address.
Apparently officials still don't understand that they've blocked not a handful of blogs, but millions of them. The Hindustan Times reports:
Officials defended the decision saying, "We would like those people to come forward who access these (the 12) radical websites and please explain to us what are they missing from their lives in the absence of these sites."

Update 5 (July 18): And ah, do read this DNA story on the block. And Slashdot. And Boing Boing.

Update 6 (July 18): I have a post on the subject on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog: "Inept censorship won't work."

Update 7 (July 19): More press coverage: NY Times, Business Standard, Washington Post, Outlook, Hindustan Times. And ah, this Indian Express story exposes how the particular blogs that the government meant to blog were themselves harmless.

Update 8 (July 19): Good news. Rediff reports that the block on Blogspot blogs will be lifted by the Indian government within 48 hours.

Update 9 (July 20): The Department of Telecom has "sought explanation from the erring ISPs as to why action be not taken against them for blocking unintended websites/webpages." Here.

Update 10 (July 21): I have a post summarising these events in Mumbai Metblogs: Freedom.
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