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Thursday, 20 July 2006 16:56

Blogging your way around government regulations

ImagePradeep Nair, a serious blogger since 2004, is not unduly perturbed by the blocking of blogs in India which the government came up with a couple of days ago for security reasons.

He and many ingenious bloggers like him have devised ways to bypass ISPs which have blocked popular blogsites like blogspot.com.nd, geocities.com, and typepad.com. Such sites were blocked because the Department of Telecommunications sent a notice to ISPs to block certain sites which were deemed antinational and incendiary to religious communities.

The ISPs claimed that they did not have technical means to do that but had gone all out to block out domains where most of the bloggers posted their sites.

Although most bloggers have devised ingenious ways to get to their favorite blogs, the very fact that the government could come down in such a heavy handed manner has created a virtual furore in the country.

Incidentally, about four years ago, the same happened to Yahoo groups –which was blocked for two days by the government citing security reasons. But that had not created this amount of media hype – simply because the blog culture was not really present at that time.

It certainly does not look like blocking blogs is a way to curb terrorism. Bloggers are just having more fun and think that this is a challenge - to get around the blockade by figuring out how to read their favorite sites.

One Web site offered help by way of a free blog gateway. “ There are so many ways to access our blogs, I am still accessing my sites and people are posting on my blogsite,” says Nair, a journalist based in the city. His blogsite has links to interesting news events which gets about 50-75 hits per day.

Security has to be excercised in different ways and at government levels – not by going to ISPs and telling them to block certain sites.

Says Ramesh B, IT head, Eduquity, an IT firm feels that this kind of a blockade is nonsense, “It is like cutting off your freedom to talk - if you cant talk in your office, you find another place to do it – the same thing is happening with bloggers – they are going elsewhere to just post anything they want.

“If the government has to really come down on something serious, it should be on sites like Google maps and other sites where terrorists can easily pinpoint our defense and other critical establishments. You see Taiwan and Korea have blocked this -- we should look at ways to avoid this rather than block blogsites.”

Today, the government is at its wits end trying to find out ways to control terrorism and believes that the internet is aiding and abetting terrorists.

“Honestly, blogs don’t really matter that much in India. How many people have PCs at home? About 5 -10 million in a population of over a billion? Or if they are in offices, people are busy working.

“The blog culture has not really matured enough to have any real impact on Indian society. I think bloggers are young urbanites -- those who think it is fashionable to be a blogger or there are some blogs for services like the Mumbai Help which came up after the serial blast. They can never be a serious threat to the government. Do you seriously think that a terrorist is going to have a blogsite and incite people to join him in his activities? Or send emails or post terrorist information there?” asks Tamanna Chopra, another blogger in Bangalore.

Everyone agrees that this was a knee-jerk kind of a decision and the government had not really made it clear that to the ISPs what they had to do to block certain sites.

“Indian government will have to get lot smarter to counter how the internet is used by terrorism -- blocking domains will only affect the masses and I am sure terrorists will be smart enough and ready with a workaround. And, if you think that blogs are aiding terrorists, you should rather spy on the blogs and be clever enough to know when a next attack is going to be more likely,” says enthusiast blogger and entrepreneur ,” adds Shalin Jain, an enthusiast blogger and CEO, of tezaa.com.

Meanwhile, according to Amitabh Singhal, president, Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI), the blockade is to be lifted within 48 hours. He has acknowledged that some ISPs mistook the Department of Telecommunications notice and blocked entire blog domains. They did not have the technical knowledge to block a sub-domain and leave others still accessible, reports another website.

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