Thursday, 23 August 2012
Government Sets 12-hour Deadline For Twitter To Remove Hate Pages .
NEW DELHI: With 'inflammatory' material and 'morphed' pictures spreading communal hatred still continuing on Twitter, the government on Wednesday set a 12-hour deadline for the micro-blogging site to remove these hate pages or face action.
After the end of the deadline on Thursday morning, the government may impose a temporary ban on Twitter using available technical options.
"If Twitter fails to respond to our request, we will take appropriate action. We have asked the information technology ministry to serve them (the US-based site) a notice," home secretary R K Singh said.
Though the micro-blogging site on Wednesday responded to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) over fake accounts and promised to cooperate in removing "unlawful" content and handles, it has not responded to the IT ministry's notice.
The ministry had asked Twitter to remove 28 pages -- carrying inflammatory content with fictitious details relating to Assam violence - on Tuesday. Not getting any response from the website, the government on Wednesday set a deadline for removing these pages.
If the government decides to act on its threat, it is likely to ask internet service providers (ISPs) to block Twitter. ISPs can do it in two ways - blocking DNS and blocking IP addresses. The DNS method is most popular. It will stop people from accessing Twitter because the URL (www.twitter.com) will not be resolved by DNS servers managed by ISPs and a user will not connect to Twitter servers.
However, it is easy to bypass this block. There are tens of third-party DNS servers and a user can easily change his internet settings to bypass this block. The IP address method blocks the IP addresses belonging to Twitter but this too is easy to bypass through proxy servers and several other methods.
To block a website effectively, India will require the kind of web monitoring and firewall that China has built. China can block URLs not only by identifying keywords but also by carrying out deep inspection of web traffic flowing through its cables. This sort of infrastructure costs billions of dollars as well as takes time.
Indian agencies are exploring technical as well as legal options on whether they can actually close down Twitter as a last resort. "One of the options before them is to take help of the US which has some kind of legal arrangement with Twitter as its server is located in that country," an official said.
Admitting to difficulties, telecom minister Kapil Sibal said some websites had refused to share user information, contending that they were beyond the jurisdiction of India as their web servers were located in other countries.
"We have to make efforts in consultation with the websites and impress upon them to create an institutional mechanism to prevent misuse of technology," he told reporters outside Parliament.
A day after TOI reported the tussle between PMO and Twitter over fake accounts, the blogging site finally responded to India's concerns. "Twitter has responded. It is now actively reviewing and will locate the illegal content," said an official. "We will work with the website on this matter through the department of electronics and information technology," he added.
Twitter reportedly told the PMO that it could not respond earlier because it was not notified of the fake accounts through proper procedure. The PMO had written to the website about these accounts in June but received no response.
Twitter could be implying that it would have been better had PMO used the website's "reporting a violation" option through which anyone can notify it of illegal content or accounts.
For impersonation, the website's policy notes, "Twitter accepts and processes impersonation reports from the person being impersonated or someone legally authorized to act on his or her behalf."
"India is important to us and we would like to have clearer communication in these matters in future," Twitter told PMO.
TOI contacted the social networking website through its official Twitter accounts, seeking clarification on its communication with the Indian government, but did not get any response till late on Wednesday.
The government has so far ordered blocking of 310 web pages where morphed and inflammatory content were uploaded with the aim to incite Muslims in the wake of ethnic clashes in Assam. Except for 28 pages that appeared on Twitter, all other pages have been blocked or deleted.