New Delhi: Did the government mess up by trying to block some Twitter handles? Why did it fail and what are the ways people use to get around government curbs?
The process being adopted as of now is that the department of telecom sends a list of internet addresses that it considers offensive to companies who provide internet services to us, ISPs. Each ISP, there are many in India, enters those addresses into a central computer, called a Domain Name Server.
A DNS server is like a traffic policeman, it receives user requests and directs them to the website they want. But once it's been told a particular web address is blacklisted - it simply refuses to guide people to the site. And you get a message saying the site is blocked.
In trying to block the twitter pages of journalists like Kanchan Gupta and Shiv Aroor, government mavens probably made a simple mistake. They might have asked to block
There are other twitter handles like @kanchangupta, @scamsutra, @panchjanya and @barbarianindian which were supposedly blocked. Since some of these guys are journalists, Twitter users have been asking why they were blocked in the first place. Some have even called it #Emergency 2012 on the site.
Even if the government hadn't messed up on the http vs https addresses, there are other ways people have got around internet censorship. Cyber security expert Dominic Karunesudas says there are sites like www.hidemy***.com that effectively act as proxy servers. Even while sitting in India, one would effectively be using a server situated outside the country to access the internet. And thus bypass all government controls on data they don't want you to see. The government has been blocking many of these sites too - but many more exist.
Another way to get around is Virtual Private Networks or VPNs. These are usually used by corporations who don't want anyone to send the data they send and receive on the internet. These are usually expensive but aren't immediately affected by web censorship. However, the govt is working to get control over such sites too.
TOR is a cheap downloadable application which journalists in many countries have often used. It effectively hides your identity on the net and lets you use a server outside the country to send and receive data.