Blocking websites: 'Battle between jihadi propaganda and free speech', says IB

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Blocking of objectionable content on the internet is a major challenge for security agencies. The year 2015 has seen at least 60 sites propagating terrorists' ideology.

The problem, an Intelligence Bureau officials says, in such cases is that there is a need to differentiate between free speech and propaganda.

cyber security

Based on the information provided by the Intelligence Bureau, the Computer Emergency Response Team has blocked 60 sites this year which had objectionable content.

Between free speech and objectionable material:

The Intelligence Bureau is treading very carefully on the issue of blocking websites. Many times material may seem objectionable, but it needs to be carefully scrutinized. Many times blocking of websites can have a bad effect as complaints have been raised that the government is trying to scuttle free speech.

The IB carefully observes a website over a period of time before deciding whether it needs to be blocked or not. If the material is extremely objectionable threatening to change the mindset of a large number of youth then we go ahead and recommend its blocking the officer also informed.

ISIS sites the biggest challenge:

The sites sympathetic to the ISIS have been mushrooming over the years. These websites have detailed descriptions on killings and on how to become a terrorist. We have found that some of the sites have generated an immense amount of traffic and this is when it starts becoming dangerous.

In Jammu and Kashmir, we had found accounts on the social media where there was plenty of interaction. Many youth had in fact taken up jihad based on the information and suggestions being provided by these sites. We have recommended the blocking of such sites, the officer also pointed out.

Once a request to block is made by the IB then the Computer Emergency Response Team writes to the intermediary seeking action. Requests of this nature are sent under Section 79 (3)(b) of the Information Technology Act.

The Computer Emergency Team officials first hold a series of discussions with officials and then take go ahead and block such sites, the officer says. There is a thorough consultation process before any decision is reached.

The officer says that the moment one site is blocked another comes up. This is the nature of our job and it is a continued process, the IB official says. However, in many cases blocking has helped. It takes sometime before a new website is put up and people get to know about it.

A major part of the job relating to propaganda on the internet has been restricted to the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Maharashtra. The IB officer says that the traffic for jihadi websites is very high in these states and we have put in most of our best resources in these parts of the country.

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