The Supreme Court has refused to hear a plea challenging the move of the Centre and the Internet Service Providers (ISPs), over their decision to block websites in order to prevent piracy of commercial content. In his petition to the SC, petitioner Jiten Kumar Jain alleged that the decision to block websites was both “arbitrary and unjustified”. A bench of justices comprising KS Radhakrishnan and Deepak Mishra refused to hear Jain's plea and asked him to approach the High Court, leading to Jain withdrawing his plea.
In his petition, Jain detailed, “Under the guise of preventing piracy of commercial content, the Government of India and the private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have taken to regularly pre-censoring websites and blocking access to them, without any orders either under Section 69A of the IT Act or under the IT Rules. Those blocked sites include political and commercial rivals and critics, resulting in a serious breach of Articles 19 & 21 of the Constitution, and constituting an attack on the democratic fibre of the nation”.
SC refuses to hear petition against ISPs blocking entire sites (Image credit: Getty Images)
Jain added further that even in cases where offensive material was carried, the respondents went ahead and blocked the entire parent domain, instead of only blocking the URL carrying that specific content. Jain added, this inconvenienced millions of Internet users in the country.
Last week we reported that some ISPs were blocking the popular WordPress domain across the country. The Tata Photon service of Tata Teleservices had blocked access to the WordPress.com domain across India, following a government order to block web pages containing offensive content. The ISP had resorted to a blanket ban, blocking access to the entire site instead of clamping down on specific web pages carrying unacceptable content. At the time WordPress was accessible through other ISPs such as Airtel and Reliance. There were reports about Sify too blocking out WordPress entirely.
We found that the domain could be accessed through means such as free proxy websites when using a Tata Photon connection, which indicated that the problem did not lie with the WordPress server. Despite the inability to view WordPress websites and blogs, those with registered accounts on WordPress were able to log in to the website. Certain portions of the Dashboard or website backend were blocked, and what remained accessible functioned very slowly for Tata Photon users. Users could not edit or post new content, but could view sections such as the blog's stats. However, this all-encompassing block affected only the WordPress.com platform and not WordPress.org.
We repeatedly tried to contact Tata Teleservices officials to get a clear idea, but did not receive a response. We also contacted Tata Photon users, who run their websites and blogs on the WordPress platform. They said they had been unable to access the service since August 20. Many users tweeted out their puzzlement and frustration after discovering that they were suddenly unable to view their own blogs and sites.
Some tweets read:
“Tata simply blocked 25 MILLION wordpress blogs @cis_india highlight this”
“Not able to open http://Wordpress.com blogs on Tata Photon Plus.”
“all wordpress blogs blocked in Tata photon plus”
“It's some Tata Photon bug. WordPress working fine with Reliance.”
“There is a known issue with Tata Photon and WordPress. Found 5 people who have the same.”
Publish date: September 1, 2012 5:23 pm| Modified date: December 19, 2013 12:32 am