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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Saturday, July 15, 2006

This is so utterly weird. Since yesterday afternoon, I haven't been able to load any Blogspot blogs - they seem to be blocked somewhere. I can get into my Blogger dashboard and post to blogs though. Neha and Mridula have been sleuthing to get to the bottom of this ... if you're in India, do go over to their blogs and help them out.

From Neha's post:

If you are on MTNL or Specranet in India, could you please let me know if blogger.com has been blocked? In fact if you're in India, can you please just let me know if you can access these sites? Thanks.

Update 1 - Dina (Bombay) confirms that she can access only her dashboard on Blogger. She even managed to post to a blog. However she cannot access Blogspot. She's on Reliance Powersufer. Aparna (Calcutta) who is on BSNL can access both the sites.

Update 2 - Over IM, Mridula (Delhi) confirms that her ISP's call centre stated that they have received a letter from the Government, hinting that it has something to do with the block. Dina called up her ISP's call centre and they confirm that there is no blocking or filtering at their end.

Update 3 - Anupa on Sify.net and Rit on Airtel can access. Monica on Tata Indicom confirms that she can post and access Blogspot.com.

Angelo showed me how to access blogspot blogs - "use an open proxy - go to www.hidemyass.com -
type in the blog url (in this case I typed in http://mumbaihelp.blogspot.com/ - type in the validation code, and you should be able to see it." It worked!

Still, this isn't the solution, its a real shame if this is a directive from the Government of India. We must all raise our voices against it.


This morning, I was checking out some Typepad blogs - same problem as with Blogger blogs. This is what I got from tracert:

C:Documents and SettingsDina Mehta>tracert typepad.com
Tracing route to typepad.com []
over a maximum of 30 hops:
1 reports: Destination net unreachable.
Trace complete.

Am really puzzled now ... and wonder what's going on. I just called Reliance Powersurfer again and they tell me that after all my calls yesterday, they checked again and wished to confirm that they were not blocking or filtering any sites themselves. However, the big news from the call centre employee on the line was that they did check and it seems that Blogspot has been blocked by the Ministry of Communication centrally. I asked them for more details, or any sort of confirmation of the same, which they were unable to provide.

Update - July 17

A set of neat tricks to access blocked websites.

A wiki set up by Peter - add your ISP's contact details if you are facing this problem

I have written letters to Powersurfer and to CERT-IN - here's the text:
Dear Sirs,
I am a long term subscriber to Reliance Powersurfer and since the last few days, I have been unable to access several blog sites. Have run tracerts on them and they show destination unreachable. However, I can access them through proxy servers.
I also spoke to the Reliance Powersurfer Help Desk, and they confirmed that Blogspot blogs have been blocked centrally by the Ministry - and that Powersurfer is not filtering or blocking them at their end.
I would be most grateful if you could look into whether there has been any directive from the Government to block blog sites on blogspot.com and typepad.com.
There is already much being written about this by way of speculation -- see these --
This is really important, as all blogs regardless of content are being blocked on these sites - and we would like to get to the bottom of this. We'd like confirmation of this from you and any other details, before we can take it up with the relevant Ministry, and any other information you may have to help us.
Many thanks,

I'd urge all those affected by this to write to their ISP providers and to CERT-IN.org - incident@cert-in.org.in for clarifications. Please add responses as you get them into the wiki.

Update - July 17 evening:

Updated list of ISP's banning blogs - from Neha and some more pointers on who to contact for information.

Reliance Powersurfer / Infocom
7 Star Cable Service
Blogspot.com has been blocked by all.
Typepad.com and Geocities.com have been blocked by the others.

Shivam shares his frustration on calling some of the authorities to get more information.

My guess is its just a matter of time, before all ISP's in India will enforce the block. This is really bad news. Or a terrible mistake somewhere.

Update - July 17 night

BSNL and Iqara added to the list. The plot gets thicker as more bloggers are alerted to the fact that an increasing number of Indian ISP's are involved. We're treading with a little caution before we go whole-hog at the government. There is a possibility that it is all a mistake - where a directive from the government on a few blogs might have been misrepresented by ISP's here - who have blocked entire domains.

Update - July 18 morning
Front page news at Economic Times - Terror Trail - Govt blanks out select blog
Financial Express also reports.
Times of India reports - Bloggers upset at government clampdown

Hindustan Times - This is outrageous - "Officials defended the decision saying, "We would like those people to come forward who access these (the 12) radical websites and please explain to us what are they missing from their lives in the absence of these sites."
Indian Express - Post 7/11, Govt targets ëextremeí websites, bloggers on the blink

More updates on press converage here.

Also, some proxy server aren't working anymore - http://hidemyass.com/, http://pkblogs.com/. Other ways to bypass the ban.

Update - July 18 afternoon.

Proxies are now all working again.

More voices against:

Slashdot - read the discussions there

Saket informs us that Angela, the owner of wikia.com has moved our wiki from Scratchpad (which is a casual sort of wiki) to the censorship section of Wikia. The new URI is: http://censorship.wikia.com/wiki/Bloggers_Against_Censorship.
Existing pages on the Wiki currently:
Update : July 18 - evening

We want answers. The silence isn't helping. I was talking to a journalist who asked me whether the silence from the Government has left us in much confusion. My answer - an unquivocal yes. Questions in my mind ....has the Govt goofed ? Or is it really talking censorship? If it is the latter, as a citizen I feel my constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression is under severe threat. And that disturbs me greatly. There is a lot of anger too as is evident in all the discussions at the Blogger's Collective google group. There is another angle to this too - is it a goof on the govt's part ... or the ISP's - if the Govt banned certain blogs ... and the ISP's banned entire domains ... that's perhaps the ISP's screwup. But now that the issue has taken such serious proportions that we want answers, and soon - what really toook place between the government and ISP's? Why it happened? What does this mean for my rights as a citizen? What assurance that it will not happen again?

Update: July 19

Filing RTI's - here's how. The Right to Information Act was enacted by Parliament in 2005. It mandates timely response to citizen requests for government information. Any ordinary Indian Citizen can file a Right To Information application and the Government is compelled to respond. You can find more information here: http://persmin.nic.in/RTI/WelcomeRTI.htm.

This thread discusses Effective Filing of RTI's at the Blogger's Collective.

Sarbajit Roy, a cyber-law expert, said, "This block is a mindless exercise and shows that our bureaucrats don't understand technology at all."
[HT - Govt blames ISPs - Blogger's Protest]

Update July 19 - afternoon

RTI Filed - here's the text.

Update July 19 - evening

Jace spots this - messenger - based VoIP including Yahoo and Skype to be banned too??? Skype - hope you're listening.

Update July 20

Peter links to a scanned version of the ACTUAL document that went out to the ISPs and Rediff tells us that the block on blogs (no, not the other sites) will be lifted in 48 hours plus notes on the kind of websites that have been blocked. [Neha]

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