The Indian government has blocked access to 32 websites based on the advice of an anti-terrorism team.

The blocked URLs (uniform resource locator, an address to any website on the Internet) include files, videos and source code-sharing websites such as dailymotion.com, github.com, vimeo.com and archive.org.

In an order, tweeted by Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Bengaluru-based research organization Centre for Internet and Society on Wednesday, the department of telecom said the 32 URLs had been blocked under Section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and under Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009.

“The websites that have been blocked were based on an advisory by Anti Terrorism Squad, and were carrying anti-India content from ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)," Arvind Gupta, head of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s information technology cell, said in a message on Twitter.

His tweet came in response to a backlash to the move from Internet users.

“The sites that have removed objectionable content and/or cooperated with the ongoing investigations, are being unblocked," he added.

If Internet service providers (ISPs) don’t comply with the demand, they are liable to being penalized, the order said.

The rules give the central government powers to block access to information if it is in the interest of the “sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above."

Intermediaries failing to comply with the rules are punishable with fines and prison terms of up to seven years, it notes.

“Pastebin is still blocked in India. We are getting many reports about this. The Indian government has blocked us...," said one of the source code sharing websites, Pastebin.com, in a tweet.

This is not the first time the government has cracked down on websites. A recent report by Freedom House, an independent watchdog, said the information ministry received a total of 130 court orders to block Web content between February 2009 and December 2013.

In February 2014, the then minister of communication and information technology told Parliament that 62 URLs were blocked in 2013 under Section 69A for hosting objectionable information with the potential to disturb public order.

As many as 82 URLs were blocked on 18 September 2013 in addition to 26 blocked a week earlier after violence escalated between Hindu and Muslim communities in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh. A total of 362 URLs were blocked in response to communal violence in the northeast, the report said.

“The problem isn’t just about the specific sites that are blocked; the prob(lem) always about the bad law...," tweeted Prakash. “The 69A rules don’t allow for transparency, accountability, time-limits on blocks, etc. So easily misused by govt. + courts + individuals."

Close