Coming soon: state specific social media controls in India!

A stubborn Indian government doesn’t seem to be willing to give up easily on getting a grip on social media. The center is trying to get internet service providers build technology with which social media sites like Twitter can be blocked in specific states, reports The Economic Times citing a senior home ministry source.

The report says that the government has asked internet service providers and mobile phone firms to build ’embedded technologies’ that will enable it ban social media and other websites in specific geographies.

As if central government controls weren’t bad enough, the government’s latest move (if put in place) will empower state governments to silence dissent on social media. Internet censorship under the garb of improving internal security and curbing child pornography are some of the oldest tricks in the book used by government agencies to control the world wide web. State level controls on the internet will mean that now state governments will also start screaming for their right to censor the web which could be extremely dangerous to freedom of speech on the web. After all, we are a 21st century nation which helplessly watched politicians black out power supply and buy out thousands of newspaper copies so that news of their shenanigans (watching porn) during parliament session does not reach their constituencies.

Needless to mention, telcos will incur large expenses to install granular controls on internet. At present, telcos can only block websites on a national level at internet gateways. To be able to control access to web pages at the state level, service providers will have to install multiple gateways and administer them separately. Large social media platforms like Facebook and twitter have their servers outside the country and Indian government has little control over them. Currently, there are over fifty million Facebook users in the India, which makes it #3 in the ranking of all Facebook statistics by country. Twitter has an estimated 17 million users in India.

Several internet pages, Facebook and Twitter accounts  were blocked by the government recently to stop viral rumors inciting communal hatred from spreading. Government also sent legal notices to Twitter users who were suspected of spreading the message of hate.  The sloppy execution of Internet blockage last month led to public outrage. A nationwide ban on sending more than 5 text messages a day was also lifted last month after numerous complaints.

Several reports ranks India high and at par with countries like United States and UK when it comes to freedom of press and the internet but at this rate, it wont be long before India is ranked at part with China for strict internet controls.

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