Centre for Internet & Society

A weekly selection of news on online freedom of expression and digital technology from across India (and some parts of the world).

Delhi NCR:

Following a legal notice from Dina Nath Batra, publisher Orient BlackSwan “set aside… for the present” Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad Since 1969 by Dr. Megha Kumar, citing the need for a “comprehensive assessment”. Dr. Kumar’s book is part of the ‘Critical Thinking on South Asia’ series, and studies communal and sexual violence in the 1969, 1985 and 2002 riots of Ahmedabad. Orient BlackSwan insists this is a pre-release assessment, while Dr. Kumar contests that her book went to print in March 2014 after extensive editing and peer review. Dina Nath Batra’s civil suit led Penguin India to withdraw Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History earlier this year.

The Delhi Police’s Facebook page aimed at reaching out to Delhi residents hailing from the North East proved to be popular.


Shipbuilding engineer Devu Chodankar’s ordeal continued. Chodankar, in a statement to the cyber crime cell of the Goa police, clarified that his allegedly inflammatory statements were directed against the induction of the Sri Ram Sene’s Pramod Muthalik into the BJP. Chodankar’s laptop, hard-disk and mobile Internet dongle were seized.

Jammu & Kashmir:

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced the withdrawal of a four-year-old SMS ban in the state. The ban was instituted in 2010 following widespread protests, and while it was lifted for post-paid subscribers six months later, pre-paid connections were banned from SMSes until now.


In a move to contain public protests over ‘objectionable posts’ about Chhatrapati Shivaji, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and the late Bal Thackeray (comments upon whose death led to the arrests of Shaheen Dhada and Renu Srinivasan under Section 66A), Maharashtra police will take action against even those who “like” such posts. ‘Likers’ may be charged under the Information Technology Act and the Criminal Procedure Code, say Nanded police.

A young Muslim man was murdered in Pune, apparently connected to the online publication of ‘derogatory’ pictures of Chhatrapati Shivaji and Bal Thackarey. Members of Hindu extremists groups celebrated his murder, it seems. Pune’s BJP MP, Anil Shirole, said, “some repercussions are natural”. Members of the Hindu Rashtra Sena were held for the murder, but it seems that the photographs were uploaded from foreign IP addresses. Across Maharashtra, 187 riotingcases have been registered against a total of 710 persons, allegedly in connection with the offensive Facebook posts.

On a lighter note, Bollywood hopes for a positive relationship with the new government on matters such as film censorship, tax breaks and piracy.

News & Opinion:

Shocking the world, Vodafone reported the existence of secret, direct-access wires that enable government surveillance on citizens. India is among 29 governments that sought access to its networks, says Vodafone.

I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar expressed his satisfaction with media industry self-regulation, and stated that while cross-media ownership is a matter for debate, it is the legality of transactions such as the Reliance-Network18 acquisition that is important.

Nikhil Pahwa of Medianama wrote of a ‘right to be forgotten’ request they received from a user in light of the recent European Court of Justice ruling. The right raises a legal dilemma in India, LiveMint reportsMedianama also comments on Maharashtra police’s decision to take action against Facebook ‘likes’, noting that at the very least, a like and a comment do not amount to the same thing.

The Hindu was scorching in its editorial on the Pune murder, warning that the new BJP government stands to lose public confidence if it does not clearly demonstrate its opposition to religious violence. The Times of India agrees.

Sanjay Hegde wrote of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (as amended in 2008) as a medium-focused criminalization of speech. dnaEdit also published its criticism of Section 66A.

Ajit Ranade of the Mumbai Mirror comments on India as a ‘republic of hurt sentiments’, criminalizing exercises of free speech from defamation, hate speech, sedition and Section 66A. But in this hurt and screaming republic, dissent is crucial and must stay alive.

A cyber security expert is of the opinion that the police find it difficult to block webpages with derogatory content, as servers are located outside India. But data localization will not help India, writes Jayshree Bajoria.

Dharma Adhikari tries to analyze the combined impact of converging media ownership, corporate patronage of politicians and elections, and recent practices of forced and self-censorship and criminalization of speech.

Elsewhere in the world:

In Pakistan, Facebook has been criticized for blocking pages of a Pakistani rock band and several political groups, primarily left-wing. Across the continent in Europe, Google is suffering from a popularity dip.

The National Council for Peace and Order, the military government in Thailand, has taken over not only the government,but also controls the media. The military cancelled its meetings with Google and Facebook. Thai protesters staged a quiet dissent. The Asian Human Rights Commission condemned the coup. For an excellent take on the coup and its dangers, please redirect here. For a round-up of editorials and op-eds on the coup, redirect here.

China has cracked down on Google, affecting Gmail, Translate and Calendar. It is speculated that the move is connected to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests and government reprisal. At the same time, a Tibetan filmmaker who was jailed for six years for his film, Leaving Fear Behindhas been released by Chinese authorities. Leaving Fear Behind features a series of interviews with Tibetans of the Qinghai province in the run-up to the controversial Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Japan looks set to criminalize possession of child pornography. According to reports, the proposed law does not extend to comics or animations or digital simulations.

Egypt’s police is looking to build a social media monitoring system to track expressions of dissent, including “profanity, immorality, insults and calls for strikes and protests”.

Human rights activists asked Facebook to deny its services to the election campaign of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, ahead of elections on June 3.

Call for inputs:

The Law Commission of India seeks comments from stakeholders and citizens on media law. The consultation paper may be found here. The final date for submission is June 19, 2014.


For feedback and comments, Geetha Hariharan is available by email at [email protected] or on Twitter, where her handle is @covertlight.

The views and opinions expressed on this page are those of their individual authors. Unless the opposite is explicitly stated, or unless the opposite may be reasonably inferred, CIS does not subscribe to these views and opinions which belong to their individual authors. CIS does not accept any responsibility, legal or otherwise, for the views and opinions of these individual authors. For an official statement from CIS on a particular issue, please contact us directly.