Government denies internet censorship, Modi joins protest

August 24th, 2012 - 9:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Narendra Modi New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) Protest by social media users against the Indian government’s move to block/disable 300 web pages, including some Twitter handles, continued Friday despite ministers denying curbing freedom of expression.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi joined the protest, blackening his Twitter display picture. “As a common man, I join the protest against crackdown on freedom of speech. Have changed my display picture. Sabko sanmati de bhagwan,” Modi tweeted.

In what is being seen as “internet censorship” by many, the government directive addressed to all internet service providers (ISPs) said: “You are accordingly directed to immediately block the access to above URLS only and not the main websites like www.facebook.com, www.youtube.com, www.twitter.com.”

The directive asked the ISPs to block fake accounts of the Prime Minister Office, certain links of media organisations like First Post, Telegraph and Bhaskar, and the Twitter accounts of political commentator Kanchan Gupta and Shiv Aroor of Headlines Today television channel.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, however, said the government was only taking strict action against those accounts or people which are causing damage or spreading rumours.

“There is no censorship at all. We decided on taking action because there were pictures of Myammar etc. online, which were disturbing the atmosphere here in India. We are not taking action against other accounts, be it on Facebook, Twitter or even SMSes,” he said.

Communications Minister Kapil Sibal said: “We have provided 28 URL numbers under which objectionable material is being shown. Now the government does not know that who is behind these URL numbers, only Twitter and other sites are aware about it.”

“Actually, we don’t have the identities; we have no way to find out the identities. So, the accusations that we are aggressively targeting someone’s account or websites are incorrect,” he added.

A spokesperson of the Prime Minister’s Office said, “We had requested Twitter to take appropriate action against six persons impersonating the Prime Minister’s Office. When they did not reply for a long time, we requested Cyber Security Cell to initiate action.”

“Twitter has now conveyed to us that action has been taken and they have removed the reported profile from circulation due to violation of our terms of service regarding impersonation,” the spokesperson said.

Netizens, however, remained unconvinced.

“Congress blocking Twitter handle temporarily, soon public will block this arrogant congress permanently,” tweetted an user, the independent@Hazir Jawab.

Another user, S.N. Jagadesh Kumar, tweeted: “How to unblock your Twitter account if the government blocked you? It’s simple, just bribe them with money.”

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