Nearly 2,800 sites blocked in 2018

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology blocked 2,799 URLs last year for allegedly hosting malicious content, up from 1,385 in 2017 and 633 in 2016. Economic Times reports that internet activists are up in arms over the government withholding the list of such sites despite several RTI queries, besides not citing any reason for the blockade. Internet advocacy groups also claim that websites of NGOs and human rights groups that are critical of government policy have been barred. A MeitY official said no website is blocked arbitrarily and the “intermediary platform is free to agree to it or disagree.”

Indian ISPs, especially Reliance Jio and Airtel, seem to be blocking access to a wide variety of services, including VPN websites, torrent sites, Telegram, and even Soundcloud. The Internet Freedom Foundation crowdsourced a list of over 130 user complaints from across India. 

It is notable that in most of the countries, self-regulatory systems were put in place only after governments threatened to introduce statutory regulation. In other words, they are reactions to the government’s action. Hence, it won’t be wrong to say that Netflix, Hotstar, and likes have signed a 'self-regulatory code' for not showing in India any content considered disrespectful to national symbols and religions, in a bid to avoid a potential censorship crackdown in the booming market.

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