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New Delhi: Indian government agencies make the highest number of requests to internet giants like Facebook and Google for content removal, a report released by Comparitech, an England-based pro-consumer website on tech services, has said. 

According to the report, India made 77,620 requests for the removal of content from the five platforms studied — Facebook, Google, Twitter, Wikimedia and Microsoft — between July 2013 and December 2018. Russia came second with 77,163 requests. Pakistan made 9,771 requests.

India also topped the individual list for requests made to Facebook, which, at 70,815, is 91 per cent of the total appeals forwarded by the country. 

India makes up 33.33 per cent of the overall requests submitted to Facebook, followed by France at 20.23 per cent. 

To compile the report, Comparitech analysed data from transparency reports released by the five platforms.

The practice of recording the number of content removal requests was initiated by Google in 2009, and social media giants followed suit. 


Also Read: Govts are turning the Internet off, & it might be causing more harm than not


India and Facebook

The Comparitech report details some of the instances that elicited requests for content removal. In June 2016, it states, India petitioned Facebook “to remove a photo that depicted a sketch of the Prophet Mohammed”.

Islam forbids any pictorial depiction of the Prophet. However, since the content didn’t violate Facebook’s community standards, it was just made unavailable in India.

Facebook has courted much scrutiny in India for allegedly censoring content. From August to October last year, months ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, several journalists accused Facebook of censoring political content, according to a report in Scroll

This was reportedly done through a temporary suspension of accounts, by labelling news as spam, and preventing news organisations from promoting articles critical of leaders of the ruling party. 

Two popular pages of the Trinamool Congress were blocked in October 2018, allegedly after a large number of BJP supporters reported them to Facebook. They were restored once the Trinamool Congress approached Facebook. 

However, Facebook has denied the allegations, saying that “suppressing content or preventing people from seeing what matters most to them is simply contradictory with Facebook’s mission”.  

India on the other platforms

India ranks among the top five in the lists for Twitter and Google, at fourth and fifth, respectively — Turkey (30,183 requests) and Russia (61,471), respectively, top the lists. 

However, India ranks last in the Microsoft category. The report does not explain why.

Along with Russia, Turkey and India, France, too, makes repeat appearances in all the lists.

Although one would expect China, a country known to exert deep control on its internet spaces, to be on the lists as well, it is absent from all except the one for Microsoft. This is because it has blocked several social media sites and apps entirely. 


Also Read: Consolidation of online platforms with the intent of censorship does not always help


 

 

 

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. Countries new to filtering will generally start with blocking by IP address, before moving on to more expensive URL filtering solutions. Most ISPs do not have the capacity to filter by URL and the ones that do would need to purchase a significant amount of equipment to implement URL filtering without a significant drop in performance. ISPs must often respond quickly and effectively to blocking orders from the government or national security and intelligence services. So they block material in the cheapest way, using technology already integrated into their normal network environment. Blocking by IP is effective (the target site is blocked) and no new equipment needs to be purchased. It can be implemented in an instant, as all the required technology and expertise is readily available. Many ISPs already block IP addresses to combat spam and viruses.

    But blocking by IP address comes with a significant cost: over-blocking. Many unrelated websites may be hosted on a single IP address, so, when blocked, all other content hosted on the server will also be inaccessible. Pakistan is an interesting case, because it is one of the few countries in which the blocking lists have become public. Internet traffic routes through a gateway operated by the Pakistan Telecommunications Company Limited. In 2007, Pakistan only officially blocked 17 sites, although the list contained dead sites and typographical errors. The OpenNet Initiative tested 11 of those designated sites. It found that, in total, nearly 3.5 million are actually blocked. This total does not, however, include the hundreds of thousands of individual blogs hosted on Google’s blogspot service. Pakistan had blocked access to the IP addresses of key hosting providers including GoDaddy and Yahoo! In the past, Pakistan has also blocked IP addresses associated with the mirroring company Akamai, causing hundreds of thousands of sites to become inaccessible. The ‘Don’t Block the Blog’ campaign was started after Pakistan blocked access to Blogspot; pkblogs.com used to offer an alternate means of accessing Blogspot, bypassing Pakistan’s filtering. That was more than ten years ago. Now, Pakisan Censorship modalities would have acquired a certain degree of sophistication and efficiency in gagging sites of embarrassment.
    Source: Evasion Tactis by Nart Villeneuve, Index on Censorship 4, 2007, Pg. 71.

  2. Given the size of India’s population I am not surprised. The right measure would be based number of total posts Vs number of posts that were deemed objectionable and were asked to be removed. The that percentage is higher compared to other countries that would alarm me.

  3. Readers need to keep in mind that India is in a continuous state of war with an insecure and weak Pakistan that doesn’t have the moral or physical might to engage in a direct conflict. Instead it tries to achieve parity by resorting to cross-border terrorism and psychological warfare through planting fake news to provoke and incite fear and hatred among the countrymen. For instance, a recent open source investigation revealed how the Pakistani deep state tried to sabotage the Howdy Modi event in the US (“Behind Imran Khan’s UN campaign, shell NGO, PR firm and an advertising blitzkrieg, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/imran-khan-un-campaign-shell-ngo-pr-firm-advertising-blitzkrieg-1604919-2019-09-30). You may recall of another incident in which how the Pakistani media tried to escalate the tensions between India and China by fabricating fake reports on the death of Indian army personnel at the hands of the Chinese during the stand-off in Doklam (“Chinese media denounces ‘groundless Pak’ reports on death of Indian soldiers,” https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/chinese-media-denounces-groundless-pakistan-news-reports-on-death-of-indian-soldiers-along-sikkim-border/story-IHc7qsyVQxrySBZV4QVaLI.html).

    The article would make sense, if it revealed the breakdown of the removed contents into malicious propaganda, fake news, gratuitous violence, inciting violence, defamatory, criticism of government and so on. Without that specific data, it is not possible to come to any conclusion based only on the total number requests for take downs to a particular social media.

  4. What is the necessity of mentioning Pakistan in this story? Why does the Indian media keep bracketing India with Pakistan? In a story like this it adds no value to compare us with a country like Pakistan. Why not US, UK, Germany, Japan etc.?

    • If Pakistan is the originating source of those offensive and malicious posts, then it is necessary to mention its contribution. The author of this article completely ignored that possibility.

      However, there are recent indications that established democracies do tend to regress in their freedom of access to information and freedom of expression. Australia’s mandatory national web-filtering system, Finland’s increased Internet surveillance for terrorist threats, the UK’s Internet Censorship and Disconnection Law, and the USA’s Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect Intellectual Property Act are some of the technical and legislative mechanisms being used to clampdown on the use of the social media. The necessity of those legal measures prove that the established democracies of Australia, Finland, the UK, and the USA are not in anyway less vulnerable to internet censorship than in a flawed democracy, such as, India (https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index).

  5. It is rather silly to talk of absolute numbers in a cross country comparison. To make sense of such lists you must provide numbers on a per capita basis for as the number of internet as well as specific service users vary widely.

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