Telcos Have to Comply if Government Orders to Block Apps Such as WhatsApp, Facebook: COAI

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Idea-Cellular

Telecom operators in India will have to comply if the government orders to block mobile applications. COAI, which represents top telcos such as Bharti Airtel, Idea cellular and Vodafone India today said that the service providers need to comply if the government orders to block mobile applications but it is extremely difficult to focus and block specific apps. “It is a difficult proposition. If it becomes law and if it becomes order from the government, obviously we are required to comply,” COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews told reporters on the sidelines of a LirneAsia event, reported by PTI.

Based on a reference from the IT ministry, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has invited views from the industry on technical measures that can be adapted to block mobile apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram, etc.

“Right now it is in the nature of an exploratory question from the DoT. We are saying if there is an appropriate level of harm to national security, harm to the nation or harm to the citizen is put up, under licence condition we are obligated to do so,” Mathews said.

He said that if DoT issues order then Telecom operators will explore how it can be done. The DoT, however, has denied to have any intention of blocking any apps.

The Cellular Operators Association of India, whose members include Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Reliance Jio, Facebook, said that blocking applications could disfranchise many people who use any particular app.

“Whole area of the internet can be shut down inappropriately. The issue is also being raised is that when an app is blocked, there are very innocent people that are impacted. Not everybody who uses particular application is going to be involved in inappropriate content,” Mathews said.

He said that internet had been shut down in areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat and that is the larger issue to be discussed rather than talking about a subset of the internet.

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