The good, the bad and the ugly


India too has already had its brush with at least one attempt to crack down on blogging, when the government sought to block some blogs in July 2006, after the train bomb blasts in Mumbai, apparently to curtail hate mongering. While the government apparently directed the ISPs to block around 17 websites, it led to blocking of whole platforms like Blogspot, leading to a hue and cry. Among the sites blocked were, quite funnily, a blog called princesskimberley.blogspot.com, which had been started by an apparently depressed American woman, who had stopped blogging after a couple of initial posts!

According to a July 2003 notification, the government can ban websites in the interest of “sovereignty or integrity of India/security of the state/friendly relations with foreign states and public order/preventing incitement to commissioning of any cognizable offences”. Sites containing pornography, hate speeches, contempt, slander or defamation, and those promoting gambling, racism, violence or terrorism can be blocked.

While the government never really explained the reason behind the ban, it led to blocking of even blogs like mumbaihelp.blogspot.com, which was set up to help relatives of victims of the blasts.

The government’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN), set up under the Information Technology Act, 2000, can block a site if any government department approaches it with the request to ensure “balanced” flow of information. CERT-IN had in 2003 approved the blocking of a mailing list of banned Meghalaya militant outfit, the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council.

Utility factor

If blogs can be potentially misused, it has immense social utility too, as in the case of the blog set up to help the Mumbai train blast victims’ relatives. There are blogs that help bring together blood donors and patients or to fight social evils or medical problems. The role-playing capability of blogs in a crisis situation got exhibited in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami. Within hours of the Tsunami striking a large swathe of the globe, a large number of blogs were created offering help, coordinating tracing of people gone missing, advising people how to offer relief and how to volunteer in relief work, and so on.

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