published on September 5, 2012

NEW DELHI: The government has issued a series of directions leading to levels of Internet censorship that have so far not been seen in India, in its attempt to quell hate speech it fears will incite communal incidents in various parts of the country following violence in border districts of Assam.

 For four days starting August 18, the department of telecom instructed Internet service providers to block around 300 web pages, including blogposts, news articles of mainstream media outlets, You-Tube videos, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. The four directives (1, 2, 3, 4) did not cite any sections of the IT Act or any other law that was being applied.

The Twitter accounts of two Delhi-based journalists, Shiv Aroor of the Headlines Today television channel and Kanchan Gupta, formerly of The Pioneer, also feature among those blocked.

However, at the time of going to press, many of these handles and websites were still accessible across Internet connections with the exception of Airtel, which appears to have scrupulously followed the government’s instructions. In all, 20 Twitter accounts have been blocked and hundreds of web pages featuring user-generated content on websites such as Facebook and YouTube barred.

Wide Range of Content Blocked

The banning of Twitter accounts of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia, and websites such as, Haindavakeralam. com and sparked allegations the government was muzzling political opposition in the garb of censoring hate speech. Kanchan Gupta, one of the journalists blocked, earlier worked as an officer on special duty to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the National Democratic Alliance regime.

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