SMS Social Network Shut Down by Indian Government

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riotADOTAS – The Indian government seems to have learned a lesson from the Iranian elections, in which Twitter users in Iran spread updates on protests and violence following alleged election fraud. However, India learned that the best preventive action was to cut off the social networks.

In the wake of the Supreme Court verdict in the Ayodhya title suits (also known as the Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid title suits), the government has banned bulk SMS and MMS services — defined as more than 10 messages a day for individuals and 100 for companies — until Sept. 30. This decision effectively shuts down SMS GupShup, an SMS-based social messaging network with 36 million users.

On Sept. 23, the Allahabad High Court deferred its verdict on the Ayodhya title suits, a 60-year dispute between Muslims and Hindus regarding a religious site, until Sept. 28. Violence between Hindus and Muslims flares up around such events in India, and intelligence agencies believe “anti-social elements” and rumor mongers could use text messages and SMS-based networks like SMS GupShup to incite rioting.

A Home Ministry official told The Hindu that intelligence agencies and law enforcement officials would be monitoring SMS and MMS to seek out those fomenting tensions. On Sept. 24, a 24-year-old man was arrested for sending an inflammatory SMS about the verdict under the name of a Muslim member of the Legislative Assembly — this is in addition to the incarceration of 8,000 anti-social elements in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.

The privacy infringement of the Indian government’s actions is chilling enough, but the practical fallout is incredible as Indian mobile users employ SMS for everything from train reservations to banking transactions. Besides telecoms, enterprise messaging solution companies and IT companies are taking a financial hit from the ban.

This seems unimaginable in the U.S….

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