Centre wants the power to ban social media regionally

10 Sep, 2012

The Union Government wants to have the ability to ban social media sites (like Twitter) on a regional level, according to The Economic Times. This basically means that instead of simply banning the site across the country, it can choose to ban the site only for users in Mumbai, while its still functional in Delhi. For this, the government has asked Internet service providers (ISPs) as well as mobile service providers phone to build 'embedded technologies'.

The report claims that on August 23, the government had directed ISPs and telcos to block Twitter in eight states -- Kerala, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. But the ban could not be enforced since the telcos mentioned that a regional level ban was not possible (they could only block sites on a national basis).

The decision was taken in the wake of the violence in the border districts of Assam, since the government felt that anti-social elements were spreading large-scale rumours using social media.

Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs had banned bulk SMSes and MMSes for a period of two weeks, to quash  rumours that created panic across the country and led to a reportedly mass exodus of North-Eastern people from various Indian cities. Because of the ban, users were not able to send more than five SMSes or MMSes on a daily basis. This limit was later increased to 20, before finally being removed altogether.

Citing the same reason, the Union Government later blocked 245 websites.

"Keeping in view the sensitivity and need for restoring peace, harmony and public order, the government, on recommendation of the Ministry of Home Affairs, issued orders under section 69A of the Information Technology Act 2000 directing intermediaries including international social networking sites to block 76 web pages on 18/08/2012, 80 web pages on 19/8/2012 and 89 web pages on 20/8/2012," an official release from the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology had stated at the time.

What is your take on the matter, do you think that the government is justified in its actions, or is it a clear case of taking things too far?

(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)