The government on Wednesday blocked as many as 32 websites, including popular video site Vimeo, responding to a Mumbai court order on the grounds that the sites were being used to host extremist Islamic propaganda by jihadi groups. The blockade sparked criticism and outrage by free speech advocates on social media sites such as Twitter.
The Additional Metropolitan Magistrate, Mumbai, Department of Information and Technology and the Anti-Terrorism Squad sent a show-cause notice in November to these sites for anti-national content.“Since these sites did not respond, we were asked by the court to shut them down. Some have responded and assured that such activity will not be allowed,” said Rakesh Garg, communications ministry secretary.
“These sites were being used to mentor Indian youth for jihadi purposes,” said a Mumbai police notice. The ATS claimed it found that Areeb Majeed, an Indian youth from Thane (Mumbai) along with three other youths, were suspected to be working for Islamic State and using some of these websites to host anti-India propaganda. Anwar Husain, a resident of Bhatkal, Karnataka also used this to convey jihadi messages, ATS said.
The 32 sites worked on a ‘page hosting’ concept and did not require authentication, police said. Nikhil Pahwa, editor of Medianama.com, which tracks digital media said, “Since 2006 entire sites are blocked because of a specific URL. It is about time the government started taking into account the impact this can have on freedom of speech and expression.”