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Indian government censors own web site after court order

ISPs given blacklist in wake of defamation case

Barbed wire surrounding communications tower

The Indian government has effectively censored one of its own web sites after its Department of Telecommunications told ISPs to block access to over 70 URLs in response to a court ruling that they contained defamatory content.

The bizarre turn of events began last Thursday after controversial business school the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) won a directive from a Gwalior district court to block 78 URLs, of which 73 linked to defamatory content about it, The Times of India reported.

One of the sites listed was a link to the web site of statutory body the University Grants Commission, founded in the 1950s by the Indian government. The page in question was apparently a public notice from July 2012 stating that the IIPM is not recognised by UGC as a university proper and “does not have the right of conferring or granting degrees”.

IIPM director Arindam Chaudhuri shows no signs of backing down, slamming the UGC and another government body, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).

In a statement sent to Firstpost, IIPM labels the UGC and AICTE as “organisations full of bribe-seeking corrupt people where even at the top they have a track record of being caught red handed and being jailed”.

It also accuses the UGC of “deliberately spreading misleading information about IIPM to hurt its business interests” and of “falsely calling IIPM a fake university”.

Other links blocked by the court order are thought to include articles from Wall Street Journal, Times of India and Economic Times and other news and blog sites critical of the private business school.

Unsurprisingly, hacktivist group Anonymous weighed into the mix by taking down several IIPM sites over the weekend. Most of the web servers have since returned to life.

A fierce debate is currently raging in India over online freedom of expression in the wake of several high profile court rulings forcing the blocking of pirated, defamatory, blasphemous or ethically objectionable content.

Last year a civil suit was filed against Facebook, Microsoft, Google and other big name web companies accusing them of failing to exercise adequate self-censorship in removing objectionable user generated content from their sites.

This kind of hardline approach to user-generated content and freedom of speech, it has been argued, makes it difficult for Indian web companies to innovate and grow. ®

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