Global Freedom of Expression

CensorWatch: On the Implementation of Online Censorship in India

Key Details

  • Region
    Asia and Asia Pacific
  • Themes
    Internet Content Blocking, Website Blocking, Digital Rights

The paper authored by Divyank Katira, Gurshabad Grover, Kushagra Singh and Varun Bansal appeared as part of the conference on Free and Open Communications on the Internet (FOCI ’23). The authors would like to thank Pooja Saxena and Akash Sheshadri for contributing to the visual design of Censorwatch; Aayush Rathi, Amber Sinha and Vipul Kharbanda for their valuable legal inputs; Internet Freedom Foundation for their support; ipinfo.io for providing free access to their data and services. The work was made possible because of research grants to the Centre for Internet and Society from the MacArthur Foundation, Article 19, the East-West Management Institute and the New Venture Fund. Gurshabad Grover’s contributions were supported by a research fellowship from the Open Tech Fund.

Abstract

State authorities in India order domestic internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to websites and services. We developed a mobile application, CensorWatch, that runs network tests to study inconsistencies in how ISPs conduct censorship. We analyse the censorship of 10,372 sites, with measurements collected across 71 networks from 25 states in the country. We find that ISPs in India rely on different methods of censorship with larger ISPs utilizing methods that are harder to circumvent. By comparing blocklists and contextualising them with specific legal orders, we find concrete evidence that ISPs in India are blocking different websites and engaging in arbitrary blocking, in violation of Indian law.

Authors

Divyank Katira

Technology researcher at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), India

Gurshabad Grover

Technologist and legal researcher based in Bangalore, India

Varun Bansal

Kushagra Singh

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