Internet freedom in India

Inia INternet India enjoys a high level of Internet freedom, but state surveillance is practiced by the government and a very selective form of blocking is employed to prevent users from accessing objectionable content. You might not think of India as a repressive country, but if you happen to be traveling there you will find that much web content is unavailable without the use of a VPN.

History of India

The Republic of India is the second-largest country by population in the world, with over 1.27 billion residents. It is bordered by many smaller countries and the Indian Ocean. The country is actually the most populous democracy in the world, and the government is a benevolent one.

India gained its Independence from the United Kingdom in 1947 after the non-violent uprising led by Mahatma Gandhi. Prior to this time India was annexed by the United Kingdom through the British East India Company.

While considered an impoverished nation for many years, the level of affluence in India has been rising steadily since economic reforms in 1991. The country still faces many challenges of poverty and malnutrition, however, and it has been the victim of corruption and terrorism like so many other countries in the region.

Internet in India

The presence of a huge population and a mostly benevolent government has created a strong Internet presence in India. There are multiple ISP’s which serve the country, and a large portion of the population is connected. Recent statistics put the level of Internet penetration in India at about 8%, or 100,000,000 users. That may seem like a lot, and it is, but India is largely populated. On a per capita basis, India has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates.

Internet use in India will increase due to the country’s plans to introduce 4G service in 2013. Smartphones are very popular in India and a lot of residents access the Internet with their Android or iPhone. One study suggests that there could be 30 million smartphones in use in India by 2016.

Internet filtering in India

This is where India’s Internet story gets a little murky. Despite being a democracy and being perceived as a freedom-loving country, India maintains one of the most active Internet censorship and surveillance agencies in the world.

In 2011, India adopted new IT rules which give the government sweeping regulatory control over Internet access. One of the specific measures taken was to require all ISP’s to ban content within 36 hours of being notified that the content is objectionable. In the immediate aftermath of this legislation, Typepad and Mobango were blocked in India. In January of 2012, both Facebook and Google were issued summons by a Delhi court for violating the rules regarding objectionable content.

India issues blocks and removes them seemingly at will, so it is hard to compile a current list of which sites are restricted. These are a few of the site which have been, or are currently, banned in India:

  • YouTube, Dailymotion, and other video services. At the precise moment of this writing, access to these sites has been restored, but India has been known to ban them without warning.
  • Political Cartoons. Several of these websites have been blocked.
  • Pornographic web forums. India blocks these sites to prevent media sharing among forum users.

In June of 2013, India once again blocked 39 websites, most containing adult content, without giving any reason or law to justify their action. This is the key to understanding how Internet restriction is accomplished in India. It can be done at any time, to any site, without explanation.

Unblocking websites in India

A VPN account from can unblock restricted websites in India in most cases. Because of the manner in which the country filters the Internet, it is highly recommended that you use a VPN inside the country.

A VPN is very effective in allowing Internet users to access Skype, Whatsapp, Viber, and a host of other services like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer which are not available in India. A VPN gives you an added level of security in addition to making these websites available, and reduces the likelihood that you will fall victim to state surveillance.

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