We offer our support to environmental activists against web censorship. #WhatTheBlock

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tl;dr

The websites of environmental collectives have come under web censorship over the past week. Among them, IFF is offering advice and support to LetIndiaBreathe.in (LIB) and FridaysForFuture (FFF). We offer help to any civil society activists who require advice and access to a network of counsels and litigators.

Civic participation is the essence of a digital democracy

The Internet Freedom Foundation arises from a campaign culture of net neutrality to fight for the individual liberty for choice of internet access on our terms! As adopters of digital campaigning we get how it advances the best ideals of our constitution. It deepens participatory democracy and allows diverse voices to reach out to government on important policy decisions. Today, as we face the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to think about the future. An essential foundation of this thinking is our natural environment – our air, water, forests and rivers. Here, the sustained and irrefutable research on climate change has been become a mainstream conversation due to the activism of spirited, young campaigners.

They take risks today, for our shared future. They drive strength to their physical congregations, climate strikes, clean-ups spread over diverse regions in India through digital modes. These modes also help them spur greater awareness and reach out to people and the government. Here, at least three disturbing acts of web censorship have to our notice. We are providing assistance in some of these cases prioritising the safety and security of the members of these collectives as much as enabling their continuing work to secure our environment.

Domain blocks on LetIndiaBreathe.in and FridaysForFuture

In total three acts of web censorship have come to our notice in the past week against environmental groups in India. These include, LetIndiaBreathe.in, FridaysForFuture and ThereIsNoEarthB.com. We are offering details that build from the public statements of LetIndiaBreathe.in and FridaysForFuture.

LetIndiaBreathe.in

On June 29, 2020 it was noticed that the website “LetIndiaBreathe.in” was inexplicably inaccessible. We conducted extensive technical tests (which principally included changing name servers) run by the web developers and it was discovered that the problem was not at the end of the users. As per all information provided by the domain registrar this was due to a domain hold placed by the National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI). It is important to consider that till date NIXI has not informed the operators of LetIndiaBreathe on the reasons for this domain hold, or provided them an opportunity for a hearing. Based on this we have sent a notice to NIXI on July 10, 2020.

Today LetIndiaBreathe.in put up a public statement on this which is accessible here.

You can gather more information and updates directly from LetIndiaBreathe.in from their social media handles [Twitter | Instagram | FB].

FridaysForFuture

The domain, "FridaysForFuture.in" has also been blocked. We are actively providing them legal help. For more details please refer to their public statement on this which is accessible here.

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You can gather more information and updates directly from FridaysForFuture.in from their social media handles [Twitter | Instagram].

Update : A statement by ThereIsNoEarthB has also been sent across to us and is available here.

A continuing commitment

IFF will offer resources to civil society activists for advice and a network of counsels and litigators. As a user or reader you can do three things:

  • Report: File emerging reports of wider website blocks across ISPs by using the reporting tool over at SaveTheInternet.in.
  • Make noise!: Use social media to  grow awareness on increasing instances of website blocking by using the hashtag #WhatTheBlock. We will try our best to amplify you! Please do remember to tag the social media handles for LetIndiaBreathe [Twitter | Instagram | FB] and FridaysForFuture [Twitter | Instagram].
  • Petition: Urge government departments specially the Ministry of Electronics and IT and the Department of Telecom to reform processes for website blocking. This specifically needs to be conducted remove the secrecy from this entire process. You can read more on it here.

Through the course of this week we will being mindful of the needs of website owners and users to employ our full advocacy toolkit which includes notices, RTIs and representations to all government departments and even legislative bodies. In consultation with others we will also consider litigation as a potential avenue after weighing the risks and benefits if all such good faith attempts fail.

To us, digital activism is a core pillar of an online, participatory democracy. Our hope is that government departments reconsider their approach which smacks of illegality and encourage an informed well of online public opinion. If you like our work, please do consider a fundraiser we are hosting for providing much needed digital tools for our staff!

Important Documents

  1. Our notice on behalf of LetIndiaBreathe.in to NIXI dated July 10, 2020 (link)
  2. Public statements by LetIndiaBreathe.in (link), FridaysForFuture (link) and ThereIsNoEarthB (link) dated July 10, 2020.
  3. Blocking of DuckDuckGo and links to our previous work against website blocking (link).
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