India Dabbles in Censorship

Wed Jul. 19, 2006 2:15 PM EDT

Censorship be a tricky business. India's 40,000 or so bloggers were cut to the quick yesterday when the government demanded that the country's service providers take down 20 or so "extremist" sites, an act which ended up shutting down all of the blogs in India. Goodbye Geocities; bye-bye Blogspot. A blogger for the Times of India wrote angrily, "By trying to curb freedom of expression they might ultimately manage to antagonize the last remaining support" for the government. The Guardian reports that 300 Delhi-based bloggers are circulating a petition to demand the reinstatement of their sites.

In the wake of last week's vicious attacks on seven Mumbai trains, Indian authorities are targeting sites that they say foment religious or political animosities. But as the Times blogger notes, "While one must concede that there are a few rotten apples in every sphere, to typecast blogging, per se, as being anti national, is a bit over the top." Fortunately, it appears the problem will be short-lived: officials are promising to develop a more pin-pointed way to censor Indian bloggers (cyber smart bombs, perhaps?), and to allow the rest of the bunch back online. As one blogger wrote, "It is completely ridiculous… We are not living in China here." Good thing, too.