What’s behind India’s Internet censorship?

We have been posting a lot about the challenges facing the Internet in India recently–see Mannika Chopra’s “India struggles to cope with growing Internet penetration.” On Tuesday, Angela Saini, a guest blogger on The Guardian‘s Comment Is Free site, posted “Internet censorship could damage India’s democracy,” with the subhead “Google and Facebook have been asked to remove offensive content, but it’s not just out of a fear of stoking religious hatred.” Saini makes the point that the official resistance to the increasing penetration of the Internet goes beyond fears of religious or ethnic violence:

The simple answer might be that this is a state that has suffered religious violence in the past, and it’s just trying to keep the peace by taking down some hateful material. It is the kind of censorship that, while not ideal for freedom for speech, quite a few Indians could buy into. Look a bit deeper, though, and the reality is more insidious. The loudest pro-censorship calls among politicians seem to be reserved for websites that are about them. Their aim appears to be not just to censor the dangerous stuff, but to polish the government’s image, too.

Saini, based in London, maintains a wide-ranging site called Nothing shocks me, I’m a scientist. Her book about the rise of India as a scientific superpower, Geek Nation, was recently released.