India And Kyrgyzstan Ramp Up Internet Monitoring And Censorship Efforts

from the so-it-goes-on dept

Techdirt has written about earlier moves by India to block Web sites and censor Twitter accounts. The central concern seems to be that inflammatory online activity might stoke or provoke local outbreaks of violence of the kind seen recently in Assam. Now The Times of India is reporting that the Indian government wants to go further, and actively monitor who’s saying what by setting up a new agency:

“The agency will have an effective monitoring system, comprising duly tasked and technologically empowered cyber monitoring and surveillance agencies, which can report build-up in time and forewarn government of any malicious use of the internet and social media,” said an official. Such a central agency will, however, be set up only after putting in place a legal regime to take care of the issue of individuals’ privacy and citizens’ freedom of speech/expression.

Although it’s good that legal safeguards will be put in place to safeguard privacy and freedom of expression, the devil is in the details: the fact that the Indian government has already shut down Web sites and Twitter accounts suggests that political fears are likely to override concerns about human rights if tensions begin to rise. The same story’s quotation of a comment from a recent government meeting on the subject, with its references to “graded response and graded penalty to perpetrators”, does not augur well:

“This will introduce predictability with regard to what kind of content is liable to be regulated and for how long, the structure and process for such regulation, proactive dissemination of information to counter false propaganda as well as a system of graded response and graded penalty to perpetrators,” the minutes of the meeting said.

Meanwhile, Rebecca MacKinnon points us to news on the Net Prophet blog that Kyrgyzstan also wants to ramp up its censorship:

The only parliamentarian republic in Central Asia — Kyrgyzstan — has become the scene of a growing attack on Internet freedom. In the beginning of September, parliamentarians and security services proposed two new measures which, according to opinion leaders and experts, would increase censorship in an already restricted Internet landscape.

The reason — of course — is to “protect the children”:

Online media and television often contain information accompanied by scenes of violence, pornography, and the promotion of drugs. That can affect the outlook of a child and lead to disastrous consequences. Such rules have been in place for a long time in other countries and have been known to work efficiently.

In particular, the Kyrgyz proposal seems modelled on the Russian approach, as the Net Prophet story notes:

the information portal Kloop cites human-rights activists emphasizing the similarities between the current law and the one passed a few weeks ago in Russia. The activists have found many similarities between the two laws.

This is the law that Techdirt reported on back in July. What this underlines is the way that bad laws have a habit of spreading, as successive countries bring in similar laws. That’s not least because, rather than being able to take the moral high ground by offering clear examples of how to preserve freedom of speech on the Internet, Western countries are now widely perceived as hypocritical when it comes to censorship.

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Comments on “India And Kyrgyzstan Ramp Up Internet Monitoring And Censorship Efforts”

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12 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

While the censorship efforts don’t really surprise me (not saying I’m not outraged mind you) what’s sad after all is the last part of the article.

That’s not least because, rather than being able to take the moral high ground by offering clear examples of how to preserve freedom of speech on the Internet, Western countries are now widely perceived as hypocritical when it comes to censorship.

The ones that could help expand and protect freedom of speech are exactly the ones curtailing it.

Zakida Paul says:

Governments are scared stiff that their citizens are able to access a wide range of compelling information and opinions that go against their agendas. That is what this is really all about and the whole “for the children” argument is a red herring.

The Internet frees all of us to access and share information without barriers. Governments want to stop this and bring us back to the days when they could control what information we can access and under what circumstances we can access it. We need to make everyone aware of this and fight it tooth and nail.

gorehound (profile) says:

My hope is enough Citizens who are a lot smarter than me with IT can figure out ways to completely attack and cripple the tools of Censorship no matter which Nation they lie in.
I do not like the idea of being spied upon without a warrant and I do not like seeing my Rights disappear one by one.
I am Fed-Up with the corrupt US Government.Bunch of hypocrites and I do remember listening to Radio Free Europe in the 60’s and I do remember when we were supposed to stand up for Freedom.
Welcome to the World of 1984.We are at War with Eurasia……….We are not at War with Eurasia but we are at War With Eurasia.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My hope is enough Citizens who are a lot smarter than me with IT can figure out ways to completely attack and cripple the tools of Censorship no matter which Nation they lie in.

At its heart, this isn’t a modern IT question, but a very old one. Over the past few thousand years at least, governments have sought to censor and monitor what their citizens say to each other. And citizens have always found ways around that. This cat-and-mouse is perpetual.

What’s happening now is just an ancient tradition playing out with modern technology. We know how it will go because we’ve been down this road before.

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