“Anatomy of Internet shutdowns”: Panel discussion at Nullcon 2020

Prateek Waghre, Research Analyst, The Takshashila Institution was a speaker in a panel discussion at Nullcon on March 8, 2020 about a study carried out jointly with Rohini Lakshané of The Bachchao Project. In the discussion entitled “Anatomy of Internet Shutdowns”, Waghre spoke about the study on usability testing of the whitelist issued for Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir.

Details about the study may be accessed here: http://thebachchaoproject.org/even-the-301-whitelisted-sites-in-jammu-and-kashmir-are-not-entirely-accessible-an-analysis

Details about the session here: https://nullcon.net/website/media-track.php. Nullcon is an annual conference held in India on the topic of cybersecurity.

Submission to MHA regarding whitelist for Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir

The Bachchao Project and The Takshashila Institution made a joint submission to India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) based on our findings of a usability testing exercise conducted on the whitelist issued for Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir in January 2020. A copy of the submission has been uploaded here along with a summary of the questions raised by our findings.

The findings are available on Zenodo: https://zenodo.org/record/3635885


To,
Shri Ajay Kumar Bhalla,
Home Secretary,
Ministry of Home Affairs,
Dated: February 19, 2020

Dear Sir,

Subject: Jammu and Kashmir Internet Whitelist

This communication is with reference to orders issued by the Home Department, Government of Jammu and Kashmir (dated January 14, 18, 24 and 31) regarding the Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services and enforcement of a whitelist of websites available for internet access in Jammu and Kashmir.

We have conducted a usability analysis of the 329 entries in the whitelist with the following results.

  • 20% of the entries were practically usable.
  • 23% of the entries were partially usable.
  • 47% of the entries were not usable in any meaningful way.
  • 10% of the entries could not be analysed as the information provided was inadequate/ incorrect.

The analysis demonstrated that this whitelisting approach is not technically feasible, especially for a large population, nor is it practically workable. It also simultaneously raised questions about the whitelisting exercise as a whole, which need to be urgently addressed by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

  1. What were the process and criteria applied to select these specific URLs/ services/ websites to be on the whitelist?
  2. What were the process and criteria applied to reject some services provided by the government from the whitelist?
  3. What were the process and criteria, if any, to reject websites and services that are similar to those whitelisted and those that provide the same or comparable services?
  4. How were the residents of Jammu and Kashmir informed about this whitelist, that these specific services/ websites had become accessible?
  5. Were recommendations sought from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) with regard to the violation of Net Neutrality? If so, what recommendations did TRAI put forward?
  6. What were the criteria for blocking VPN services?
  7. What, if any, technical testing was conducted to ensure smooth operation of the whitelisted websites?
  8. What, if any, was the review process put in place for the list?
  9. In view of all the above questions, how will the authorised government officers “ensure implementation of these directions in letter and spirit,” as stated in paragraph 7 of the order dated January 14?

We have enclosed a document containing the following information for your perusal.

  • Executive summary
  • Background note
  • Summary of results
  • Questions with supporting information

The document also includes three addenda (in case further details are required).

  • Addendum 1: Detailed write-up about the method of testing, its limitations, our observations based on our findings, and questions and comments about the role of ISPs in implementing the whitelist.
  • Addendum 2: The test results and observations for each of the 301 entries in the whitelist contained in the order dated 24 January.
  • Addendum 3: The test results and observations for new entries made to the whitelist specified by the order dated January 31. The new entries had to be analysed separately since this order removed the ‘Field’ column resulting in a change in categorisation of the entries.

We seek your response(s) to the 9 questions listed in the submission.

Copies to:

  1. Shri Amit Shah, Minister for Home Affairs
  2. Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Communications, Minister for Electronics and Information Technology
  3. Shri Anshu Prakash, Secretary to the Department of Telecommunications
  4. Shri Ajay Sawhney, Secretary to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology
  5. Shri Shaleen Kabra, Principal Secretary to the Government, Home Department, Government of Jammu and Kashmir
  6. Shri R. S. Sharma, Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)
  7. Shri Sanjay Dhotre, Union Minister of State for Communication, and for Electronics and IT


Prateek Waghre
Research Analyst,
The Takshashila Institution

Rohini Lakshané
Director, Emerging Research,
The Bachchao Project

Questions about whitelist for Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir

Submissions citing analysis of whitelist for Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir

 

 

[Podcast] All Things Policy: The Dark Side Of The Kashmir Whitelist

Rohini Lakshané (of The Bachchao Project) and Prateek Waghre (of The Takshashila Institution) spoke with Anirudh Kanisetti on this podcast about their analysis of the 301 entries whitelisted for Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir in January 2020. This episode is a part of the All Things Policy series of The Takshashila Institution. The detailed analysis and test results were published on Medianama — Even the 301 whitelisted sites in Jammu and Kashmir are not entirely accessible: An analysis.

Podcast URL: https://ivmpodcasts.com/all-things-policy-episode-list/2020/1/29/ep-250-the-dark-side-of-the-kashmir-whitelist

Even the 301 whitelisted sites in Jammu and Kashmir are not entirely accessible: An analysis

The article “Even the 301 whitelisted sites in Jammu and Kashmir are not entirely accessible: An analysis” written by Rohini Lakshané (The Bachchao Project) and Prateek Waghre (The Takshashila Institution) was published on Medianama on January 28, 2020.

https://www.medianama.com/2020/01/223-analysis-of-whitelisted-urls-in-jammu-and-kashmir-how-usable-are-they

Archive URL: https://web.archive.org/web/20200128191547/https://www.medianama.com/2020/01/223-analysis-of-whitelisted-urls-in-jammu-and-kashmir-how-usable-are-they

Excerpt

The Supreme Court made a judgement on January 10, 2020 directing the Central government to review the total suspension of Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir imposed since August 5, 2019 and to restore essential services. In response, the government of Jammu and Kashmir issued a whitelist comprising 153 entries on January 18, and increased the number of entries to 301 on January 24. What would the experience of an ordinary resident of Jammu and Kashmir be like under the whitelist arrangement? We conducted a preliminary analysis to empirically determine whether the 301 whitelisted websites and services would be practically usable and found that only 126 were usable to some degree. Before we delve further into the questions the list raises, the role of ISPs, and analyse the list itself, it is pertinent to understand the background and context in which an ordinary resident of Jammu and Kashmir may access the Internet…

Tweet thread: Preliminary analysis of second whitelist for Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir

Dataset: https://zenodo.org/record/3629633

In continuation of the tweet thread from: Preliminary analysis of first whitelist for Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir

Detailed analysis published on Medianama — Even the 301 whitelisted sites in Jammu and Kashmir are not entirely accessible: An analysis, January 28, 2020

Tweet thread

Tweet thread: Preliminary analysis of first whitelist for Internet access in Jammu and Kashmir

Rohini Lakshané (The Bachchao Project) and Prateek Waghre (The Takshashila Institution) conducted a preliminary analysis of whitelist comprising 153 entries issued by the Home Department, Government of Jammu and Kashmir on 18 January 2020, to empirically determine whether the whitelisted websites and services would be practically usable for an ordinary resident. The Twitter thread published here shines a light on the method of testing and the signficant findings. A detailed write-up will be published soon. The dataset comprising test results is licensed and can be accessed here: https://zenodo.org/record/3627665

Dataset: Analysis of whitelisted URLs in Jammu and Kashmir (order dated 24 January 2020)

This preliminary analysis was conducted by Rohini Lakshané (The Bachchao Project) and Prateek Waghre (The Takshashila Institution) from 22 and 26 January 2020 IST, to empirically determine whether the whitelisted websites and services would be practically usable for an ordinary resident of Jammu and Kashmir at the time of writing.

This dataset contains an analysis of a whitelist comprising 301 entries issued by the Home Department, Government of Jammu and Kashmir on 18 January 2020 [Order number: Home-05 (TSTS) of 2020]. The department issued an order with the accompanying whitelist in response to a Supreme Court judgement dated 10 January 2020 (Anuradha Bhasin vs. Union of Indian and Ors.) that directed the Government of India to review the blanket suspension of Internet services in Jammu and Kashmir since 5 August 2019. The first version of the whitelist (dated 18 January 2020), and this dataset by extension, comprised 153 entries. The Home Department states in its orders that this whitelist will be continually updated; the next update may be issued on 31 January or earlier.

A Chrome browser extension was used to simulate access to only those URLs that are mentioned in the government order. A detailed description of the method, its limitations, and the full analysis of the findings has been published on Medianama (Even the 301 whitelisted sites in Jammu and Kashmir are not entirely accessible: An analysis).

For information on how to read this dataset, refer to the tab entitled “About this sheet”. A numerical summary of the findings of this analysis is present in the tab entitled “Summary of findings”.

Data is provided AS-IS, without warranty as to accuracy or completeness.

This dataset has been released under the Creative Commons-Attribution-Share Alike (CC-BY-SA) 4.0 International License. All uses of the accompanying data and modifications and derivatives thereof must contain the following attribution: “By Rohini Lakshané and Prateek Waghre (2020)”.

This dataset was first published here on Zenodo.
DOI

Version 2

Lakshane_Waghre_Analysis of whitelisted URLs in Jammu and Kashmir, 27 January 2020

 

XLSX format: Lakshane_Waghre_Analysis of whitelisted URLs in Jammu and Kashmir.XLSX,_27 January 2020_CC-BY-SA-4.0

ODS format: Lakshane_Waghre_Analysis of whitelisted URLs in Jammu and Kashmir.ODS,_27 January 2020_CC-BY-SA-4.0.

Version 1

Lakshane_Waghre_Analysis of whitelisted URLs in Jammu and Kashmir, _24_January_2020

 

XLSX format: Lakshane_Waghre_Analysis of whitelisted URLs in Jammu and Kashmir.XLSX, 24_January_2020_CC-BY-SA-4.0

ODS format: Lakshane_Waghre_Analysis of whitelisted URLs in Jammu and Kashmir.ODS, 24_January_2020_CC-BY-SA-4.0

Last edited: 12:58 a.m., January 29, 2020, IST to add Version 2 of dataset.

“Studying the impact of shutdowns from the lens of gender, conflict and ethnicity”, Rightscon 2019

We are publishing the plan for our Rightscon session entitled “Studying the impact of shutdowns from the lens of gender, conflict and ethnicity”.

Details: https://rightscon2019.sched.com/event/Pvrh/studying-the-impact-of-shutdowns-from-the-lens-of-gender-conflict-and-ethnicity, Thursday, 13 June 2019, 5.15 pm to 6.30 pm, Hannibal, Laico Hotel, Tunis.

Speakers: Rohini Lakshané (also facilitator), Jan Rydzak, Unnamed speaker

Chatham House rules apply.

Main goal of the session: To equip the audience with skills and knowledge about devising studies on intentional Internet shutdowns while factoring in the intersections of gender, conflict-strained geographies and ethnicity. We would like the audience to be able to modify and adapt the study for their contexts and employ the lessons for the workshop for research or advocacy or both.

Description: A skill-building and knowledge-sharing workshop for activists and researchers who are investigating the impact of intentional Internet shutdowns from the lenses of gender, ethnicity and conflict. The methodology and the complete research report are available at: http://thebachchaoproject.org/of-sieges-and-shutdowns

We would elucidate on the methodology we employed in an exploratory study in northeast India in late 2017 about the impact of shutdowns on the lives of women entrepreneurs and feminist activists belonging to India’s ethnic minorities. We carried out qualitative interviews with 16 women residing in different districts of the state of Manipur. The activists in the control group and their organisations work in different areas of empowerment of women and girls: relief for victims of domestic abuse, increasing the number of women in governance, economic independence of women, and child trafficking. Some of them also run small or medium businesses.

Awareness of digital rights, cybersecurity and online privacy in the state is little, leaving citizens vulnerable. This intersection of gender and ethnicity is further complicated due to the suspension of civil rights in the region since the 1980s. Owing to the complexity of the topic, an individual directly affected by the shutdowns in Manipur would start the session with an introduction of the demographic and the region. Rohini Lakshané of The Bachchao Project would then speak about the research methodology, its evolution through the course of the project, and the differentiators from other interdisciplinary and qualitative studies on shutdowns, while trying to achieve a level of abstraction high enough for the methodology to be applicable to other, similar demographics and regions. Jan Rydzak, Associate Director for Program, Standford Global Digital Policy Incubator, would follow by speaking about the research methodology he employed in the quantitative study “Of Blackouts and bandhs: The strategy and structure of disconnected protest in India“. The study examines how structural and strategic characteristics affect collective action responses during a network shutdown in an extreme case via statistical analysis.