YouTube has begun complying with Indian government orders to block Leslee Udwin's controversial BBC documentary India's Daughter, which was being viewed widely on the internet following a restraining order from a Delhi court on its telecast in India.
Various government agencies have reached out to YouTube with a court order that applies to internet companies specifying the urls that the government wants blocked, a person familiar with the development said. It's unclear if the Delhi Police has obtained a separate restraining order or the same order that was meant for print and television companies is being used to block the video on the internet.
The ministry of information and broadcasting had issued an advisory to all television channels on Tuesday asking them to not telecast the documentary about the brutal gangrape of a medical student in Delhi in December 2012. The BBC subsequently brought forward its schedule and broadcast it at 3:30am Thursday morning India time.
"While we believe that access to information is the foundation of a free society, and that services like YouTube help people express themselves and share different points of view, we continue to remove content that is illegal or violates our community guidelines, once notified," a YouTube India spokesperson said in an emailed response.
Users on social media reported that the video had been blocked.
There are, however, several copies of the video on YouTube itself and it's unclear now which urls the government has requested to be blocked.
A complete block is near impossible to achieve as in such situations users tend to work to overcome the bank and keep uploading new copies. Besides, the video will soon find its way to other video-hosting websites and user-curated communities and other poorly-lit alleyways of the internet, from where it will be harder for the government to erase the video.
According to India's Information Technology Act, intermediaries such as YouTube are required to take down content once notified by a competent government agency.