India eyes ways to block Facebook, WhatsApp

New Delhi: Consider it as a step ahead towards the dictatorship of far right ruling party. The government has asked telecom operators and internet service providers to suggest ways to block social media apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp during emergencies, a move the industry says will be difficult to enforce and violate the fundamental right of speech and expression.
In an 18 July letter, the department of telecommunications (DoT) wrote to companies including Bharti Airtel Ltd, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, and industry associations, requesting them to “explore various possible options and confirm how Instagram/Facebook/WhatsApp/Telegram and such other mobile apps can be blocked on internet.” Mint has seen a copy of the letter.

They were asked to submit inputs by 20 July.

“In our submission, we have said such an exercise would be extremely difficult to do. In this day and age, how can you shut down the internet especially as many travel bookings and financial transactions etc. are on the internet,” a person aware of the development said, requesting anonymity.

DoT issues instructions to internet service providers to block websites based either on a court order or on the directions of the cyber law division of the ministry of electronics and information Technology (Meity). In this case, DoT, has merely initiated a discussion based on a letter received from Meity, a DoT official said. “There is no move to block any apps. Meity has told DoT that blocking such apps during emergency... situations is difficult, and hence there is a need for a reasonably good solution to protect national security,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

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