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How effective is net policing?
Press Trust of India
New Delhi, July 23, 2006
First Published: 12:05 IST(23/7/2006)
Last Updated: 12:05 IST(23/7/2006)

As bloggers rejoice over DoT's decision to lift the blockage, cyber experts say Government should evolve more mature strategy to deal with undesirable content on the web.

"The Government has sovereign right to police the Internet, but the bigger issue is how effectively is it able to do it... The Government's action should not make it a laughing stock of everyone," says Pavan Duggal, a cyber law expert.

All over the world, experience has shown that blocking various websites and blogs does not work. Governments may want to, but cannot control global networks, or for that matter content generated in other country, says Duggal.

"Such orders like blocking various websites are bound to be observed more in breach than observance," he says.

Section 79 of the Indian IT Act clearly defines the liability of the Network Service Providers for the third party data available on their networks - websites or blogs. Under this, the Network Security provider is presumed to be guilty unless he proves that the offence or contravention was committed without his knowledge or that he had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence or contravention

The section was used in the Bazee.com case. The chief executive of the website Avnish Bajaj was held responsible for the auction of a MMS CD on his website by an IIT Kharagpur student.

A couple of years ago, the government had decided to ban a Yahoo newsgroup allegedly run by Naga insurgents. In the process, all Yahoo newsgroups were inadvertently blocked, leading to a furore among Internet users in India.
 
Calling the action to block various websites and blogs as "panic reaction" former CBI chief Joginder Singh says "the ISPs did more damage by blocking entire network of domains hosting some of these blogs."

"There are many other ways available to censure unwanted content on the websites rather than blocking various blogs and sites," he says, totally unsupportive of the government's action.

"The knee jerk reaction by the officialdom is not going to curtail use of blogs as a medium," says a blogger.

He says visits to his blog came down from 100 to five daily in two days. Though all the blogs were available through a third network route, not many people knew about it, he says.

"Since blocking has in earlier cases also proven ineffective, all the government was trying to do was to curtail the freedom of expression," another blogger Yazad Lal says.

"China and many other countries have been regularly blocking various websites, but failed to achieve much. The Indian government needs to learn from this, evolve a clear-cut strategy on Internet policing, analyse it and only then implement it," notes Duggal.


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