Version 1.5b Castle in the Sky

lecture: #GOIBlocks - Technical observations about recent internet censorship in India

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On 17th December 2014, the Government of India's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology issued an order to all licensed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country to block access to 32 websites, effective immediately. The basis of this was a claim that the targeted web services were being used for "Jihadi Propaganda" by "Anti-National groups". As a response to this, a few technologists in Berlin got together and thought it would be a good idea to do some research using free and accessible tools and to look at how censorship has been implemented, as well as the various techniques that could be used to circumvent this censorship. This talk will discuss our findings and make recommendations about how ISPs can handle such censorship requests better, while being fair and transparent to their customers.

On 17th December 2014, the Government of India's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology issued an order to all licensed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the country to block access to 32 websites, effective immediately. Not only did the ban affect access to popular cultural sites such as archive.org, vimeo.com, dailymotion.com, but the order also blocked access to sites like github.com, pastebin.com, which are useful for all sorts of people but are especially popular with software developers.

The Ministry's order was issued following a request from the Mumbai police's Anti-Terrorism Squad on 15th November 2014. The police request argued that the targeted web services were being used for "Jihadi Propaganda" by "Anti-National groups", and were encouraging youth in the country to join organisations like the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).

As a response to this, a few technologists in Berlin got together and thought it would be a good idea to do some research using free and accessible tools to look at how censorship has been implemented, as well as the various techniques that could be used to circumvent this censorship. The research was conducted through January, 2015 and draws on the browsing experience of several customers of different ISPs around India as well as information gained through the use of the open source censorship measurement toolkit provided by Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) [1] and other manual tests we conducted. Since then, we have been able to turn this into a continued effort to monitor ISPs in India and invited others to contribute to this effort to map and understand various technical implementations of censorship orders.

This talk will summarise our key findings, including the different methods of blocking implemented by multiple ISPs.

We will also discuss and make recommendations about the different ways ISPs can better handle such censorship orders, while continuing to respect the their customers' right to access to information, and how they can be more transparent while exercising censorship orders and requests from authorities.

[1] http://ooni.torproject.org/

Info

Day: 2015-12-29
Start time: 23:30
Duration: 00:30
Room: Hall 6
Track: Ethics, Society & Politics
Language: en

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