SMS ban in India: for better or for worse?

Kolkata, Oct 8, 2010 (Calcutta Tube/IBNS): The recent move by the central government to put a blanket ban on bulk messaging ahead of the declaration of the Ayodhya verdict continues to draw flak from industry insiders who are complaining of hefty losses due to the decision.

First imposed on Sept 22 and later extended twice to prevent any large-scale post-verdict propaganda, the ban had been called off on Monday night.

Companies who thrive on bulk messaging, however, are livid. According to some estimates, the  enterprise messaging solution (EMS) industry lost around Rs 2.5 crore per day during the ban.

Beerud Sheth, chief executive and founder of SMS GupShup, a ‘social messaging’ portal, said despite the government’s good intentions, it actually went around the wrong way trying to block the astray messages.

Implementing a content-filter based approach would have been a far more effective solution and with lesser collateral damages, he said.

“Instead of putting a blanket ban on the mass medium, which also caters to many essential and necessary services like finance, medicine and traffic, intelligently filtering objectionable content through filters is the right way to do this,” explained a company official.

A few months ago, in collaboration with the Kolkata Police, the company had launched a service to send traffic updates to subscribers. The SMS-ban had temporarily thrown off the update system.

“And that’s just one example. We have over 30 million users who are active on over 3 million communities on our site who have actually opted in to receive certain SMS updates. They were cut off too,” said the official.

Experts are also questioning the effectiveness of the ban.

“I see very little point in banning bulk messages. Do you think people who want to create discord depend upon licensed bulk messaging services? These things happen virally,” said an independent cyber security expert.

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