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India, The World’s Largest Democracy, Blocks More Websites Than Pakistan

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The Indian government is blocking more websites than Pakistan, Bahrain and UAE combined. That’s according to a report by University of Toronto-based Citizen Lab along with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Indian internet service providers have installed the highest number of Internet filtering systems and blocked the maximum number of web pages, the report said, based on a survey. In fact, India tops the list of 10 countries that were part of the survey. The Indian Express was the first to report the results.

Indian ISPs have been found filtering access to websites and web pages belonging to domestic and foreign NGOs, human rights groups, health forums, feminist groups, and political activists at different points during the survey period, the report said.

Citizen Lab and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation surveyed Afghanistan, Bahrain, India, Kuwait, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, UAE and Yemen. The findings include both websites actually blocked and websites that are not blocked but which operators had intended to block.

Apart from the usual suspects like websites related to porn or piracy, those belonging to domestic and foreign NGOs, United Nations organisations, human rights groups, health forums, feminist groups and political activists were also blocked at different times during the survey period.

The report identified Bharti Airtel, Hathway, Reliance Jio, Reliance Communications, Tata Communications, Tata Sky Broadband, Telstra Global, Pacific Internet, Net4India, Primesoftex, Hughes Escorts Communication and BSNL’s National Internet Backbone as ISPs that employed the services of Netsweeper filtering systems in India. These ISPs collectively account for more than 60 per cent of India’s 422 million internet users, according to data maintained by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Watch this conversation with Jay Mazoomdar of the Indian Express and Pranesh Prakash, Fellow, Centre for Internet and Society, on what the report highlights about freedom of expression and a free internet in India.

The amount of censorship in India is absolutely worrying. Some might question why we are bringing up issues of just individual websites being blocked, whereas India also leads the world in terms of the entire internet being shut down. That leads to much greater loss in terms of freedom of expression and ability to conduct economic transactions.
Pranesh Prakash, Centre for Internet and Society

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology declined issuing instructions to block the sites, the Indian Express reported.

We are not aware of any court orders asking for these NGOs to be blocked. And it’s highly unlikely that ISPs would block on their own because the penalty is heavy and they may lose their licenses.
Jay Mazoomdar, Indian Express
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