Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Tech Boomerang

This editorial on the blocks put on Indian blogs appeared in Hindustan Times July 19, 2006

Only monumental ignorance -- or bureaucratic small-mindedness -- can explain the government ban of some websites, in the name of security. In executing the decision, a block has been effected on a number of popular sites like blogger and which host hundreds of thousands of personal websites in the form of weblogs or blogs, which have nothing to do with terrorism or security. The action of blocking the hosting websites is the equivalent of turning off the national telephone network because terrorists may have used it to place a call or two, or banning all newspapers because some rag has printed an objectionable article.

Government security managers probably do not have blogs, and their action indicates that they do not even know what a blog is. They are nothing but internet ‘conversations’ and bulletin boards stressing individual expression. By blocking them, the government is seriously contravening individual freedom. Host sites typically have blogs that are scientific and technical clearing-houses, forums of specialists or hobbyists on history, law, politics, poetry, culture, recipes and what not.

The only other country that practises such draconian censorship is China, where the entire internet is censored. No doubt our babus would like to have the kind of powers that the mandarins have in authoritarian China, but they should not forget that they live in a democratic system whose cornerstone is the freedom of speech guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution. This freedom is not absolute and the government does have the right to regulate it in the interest of security and public morality.

Our contention is that the present action is based on sheer ignorance, besides being grossly disproportionate. As it is, the authorities have probably never heard of ‘anonymisers’ that help evade such controls. As for terrorists and their supporters, they know their way around the internet pretty well and are unlikely to be deterred by the sledgehammer the government wants to wield in the internet china shop.

1 comment:

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