Friday, July 21, 2006

Blog block: A few links


All well in god's own country? Sure enough. Except for one small detail. As I write this, the instructions to ban those few specified sites still stand.

Any anger about that? Should there be?

To my mind, of course. That's the point of all this, after all: the government's decision to shut down my access to some sites. (As, before, governments have decided to shut down my access to some books, some films, etc). The lifting of a stupid blanket ban, by itself, was never the point.

So any RTI queries, any legal action, any blogger anger, must focus, first, on getting government to explain exactly why and how it took this decision about these specific sites; second, on using that information to set up the framework that will prevent government from banning anything, and I mean anything.


[Let us] remind ourselves that somebody sitting in the Government office has decided on your behalf that you are not capable of digesting some content online. I might wake up tomorrow and find just my blog blocked. I share my server with perhaps seventeen other websites. Some of you may notice tomorrow that you get strange errors on my page. You’ll come once, twice and maybe even an odd third time when you google for something. You’ll get irritated and never come again. I won’t have an army of bloggers to defend my rights then. Even suppose you are inordinately fond of reading me - you won’t find anyone to support your right to read. You may never realize that the blog is blocked because the government doesn’t even find it fit to tell you what is blocked. And let’s face it - one piddly little navel gazing blog isn’t going to make someone fish for a copy of a government note and fax it to anyone.

In the end - a drop will go missing from the ocean. Somebody somewhere will tsk away and say something about how it’s not censorship - just the state’s good intentions.


i wonder how many of us would even have noticed that indian government had asked internet service providers to block some 20 urls, if it's not for technical incompetence of these isps, who ended up blocking thousands of them. i guess they would get around the problem sooner than later. after that, what?


3-4 days back, when it became apparent that the Govt of India had once again asked India's 153 ISPs to block some internet sites, I had thought that I will start this post with a quote often attributed to Voltaire:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Unfortunately, I found soon that quoting Voltaire in this situation will be an anticlimax.

I realised that one was up against, not a conspiracy against freedom of speech/information, but plain ignorance and stupidity!!!

The Hindu:

Various forms of speech have been growing on the Internet to the discomfiture of governments, some of which have responded with broad restrictions on their dissemination through laws and technological barriers. The reasonableness of such curbs, which can only be the rare exception in an open society, depends on whether the banned material can cause immediate violence or harm. Such a principle may apply to some online activities such as child pornography and incitement to hate crimes of a direct nature. In general, though, free speech must remain unfettered and protected vigorously as one of the most prized of freedoms. The order of the DoT to the Internet Service Providers appears to meet none of the tests restricting the freedom of speech and smacks of arbitrariness.


While following the groundswell of conversation that welled up among Indian bloggers (even a touching offer of help from Pakistan), something became frightfully clear: most of the people who were writing against censorship and for freedom believed in no such thing. I repeatedly came across messages that said “If the government wants to block a few websites, that’s alright, but blocking all of blogspot is terrible.” I have a name for these people, and it’s “free speech free riders“.


... It is perfectly natural that bloggers are more concerned about themselves than about a distant event. If you sat in a Mumbai train and listened to the conversation, we bet they’ll be talking about the bombings, not blogs.

If bloggers were talking about the bombings without either first-hand experience or new insight, that is when you should be calling them pretentious. The fallacy is in assuming that bloggers or the blogosphere have a greater purpose than navel-gazing.