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US Blog stands up to Indian police
By Bala Shah

US-based Blogger News Network (BNN) was launched in 2005 by Robert Hayes who describes it as being ‘dedicated to reporting, analyzing, and editorializing on the news of the day from a wide variety of responsible, informative points of view. We believe in open inquiry and a free press, and we avow high standards and strive to live up to them.’  BNN has substantial readership.

To Robert’s credit, he is honest about his loyalties and has published the following statement on BNN: “Without being blind to the faults of the United States specifically and the West generally, we consider ourselves unblushingly to be part of something called Western Civilization, and we further believe that the advancing and protecting of that civilization are worthy and noble causes.”

Robert has just blogged about how his blogging network has become caught in an “international ‘pissing match’ going on between a quasi Indian government puppet company named E2-Labs and an Italian security company”

I have no real clue what they are at battle over, but a BNN Article seems to be at the heart of the trouble.

I was contacted by someone purporting to be with some Cyber Crimes unit in India who demanded that I hand over email and IP address information on an individual who had left a comment. I declined, our policy is not to give out that information, BNN holds people’s privacy in high esteem.

I did however say that if I was contacted by a US based Attorney or Government official who could verify that compliance in this matter is covered by US law, I would comply.

Our Cyber Crimes expert got a little huffy and went away.

This was the letter I received that started this idiocy. (Hyperlink can be seen at Robert’s blog post)

I am a firm believer that you capture more wasps with honey than you do with vinegar. I didn’t like the tone of this persons email, and so I dug my heels in.

Today I received the following: (Images of court documents can be seen at Robert’s blog post)

What I find interesting is that this is not a criminal case, but a civil one. These documents clearly talk about a beef between E2-Labs and Zone-H. What is interesting is that this set of documents shows that E2-Labs (India based) are petitioning to put this article under censorship. I guess if the Chinese can have the Great Firewall, India can have the Vindaloo Wall.

While Indian police are duty bound to follow the legal directives of a court, this is not the first time that Indian police have requested someone in USA to hand over an IP address or remove a blog post, without it being backed by a Judicial Order.  Techgoss had exclusively reported on Jan 14, 2010 that Mumbai Police had asked a USA blog to remove cartoons.

The powers of any country’s police are limited if they are dealing with any entity that has no business interests/offices in that country.  And if this matter is bought up in an American court, it will most probably rule in BNN’s favour.

American bloggers enjoy great freedom of speech in their country and so not surprisingly both the bloggers just ignored the requests from Indian police. And BNN has published all the emails from the Karnataka police so its readers can make up their own minds.

Till yesterday, may be only a few thousand people had seen this article and comment on BNN.  Now that BNN has made this a free speech issue, tens of thousands of people in America and India would read the article and the court documents to make up their own minds.  A legal battle has become a PR battle as well.

(Techgoss had published the following on Jan 14, 2010)

Mumbai Police ask USA blog to remove cartoons
By Bala Shah

US-based The Chilling Effects Clearinghouse collects and analyzes legal complaints about online activity, helping net users to know their rights and understand the law.  The aim of this exercise is to stop unwarranted legal threats.  Chilling Effects is supported by EFF, Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford and other elite institutes.

Chilling Effects is a powerful moral voice in USA.

The Chilling Effects Clearinghouse has published a Mumbai police email to a US-based American blogger asking him to remove cartoons which would be offensive to India-based Muslims.

The Chilling Effects website has published a letter from a Senior Inspector of Police, Cyber Crime Investigation Cell, Mumbai to American blog which reads in part (Techgoss has not edited the letter in any shape or form)

Re: (Very Urgent) Block / delete suspected links about Muslim communities....

Dear Sir,

This office is enquiring a complaint wherein cartoon articles on Allah and Islamic religious personalities for eg. Mohammed and wife Aisha are created and posted. They are making insulting remarks against Muslim prophet and other personalities of Muslim communities. You are requested to delete/remove block below mentioned suspected and malicious link and articles on your websites.

The American blog refused to take down the cartoons and forwarded the Mumbai police email to The Chilling Effects.

Indians who follow the great religions of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism and others hold their Gods and Gurus greater than anything in the mortal world.  And they would take every step permissible under law to protect their religious beliefs and feelings.

But why would any Indian police department think that an email sent to America would be enough for a blogger to take down a post?

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