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State Censorship : 32 sites blocked in India by ISPs following DoT orders
A number of users in India have reported that they have been unable to access sites including GitHub, DailyMotion ,Vimeo, Pastebin and 28 other websites if they were accessing the Internet via Vodafone or the state controlled MTNL and BSNL networks. Reports suggest these sites were blocked on government orders due to an ISIS threat.
The block was first reported by Techworm, when our researchers found that Pastebin and GitHub were being blocked. Pastebin, a website where you can store text online for a set period of time, had tweeted that it was being blocked by Indian ISPs on December 19. As of December 26th, the site reported that it was still blocked in India.
https://t.co/e3zRKnJJQO seems to have been blocked in India. If you are from India and unable to visit Pastebin, please email us.
— Pastebin (@pastebin) December 19, 2014
A number of users have posted their resentment of the block.
@centerofright @pranesh_prakash @rsprasad @pierrefitter1 None of the websites in the list opening here.Checked through two ISP connections.
— DeshGujarat (@DeshGujarat) December 31, 2014
A few days later, GitHub to appeared to be blocked. Now, however now it is found that the Government of India through its Internet oversite watchdog Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked the ISPs to block a total of 32 websites. These website have been blocked under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000. DoT has also asked ISPs to submit compliance reports, however the circular contents have not been verified by either any government independent agency.
The list of websites blocked is given below
- Tny.cz (Tiny Paste)
- Sourceforge (only one link ‘Phorkie ‘ which hosts source code of Pastebin source code blocked)
Insane! Govt orders blocking of 32 websites including @internetarchive @vimeo @github @pastebin #censorship #FoEx pic.twitter.com/F75ngSGohJ
— Pranesh Prakash (@pranesh) December 31, 2014
As can be seen from the Order issued by DoT, most of the sites are related to Paste sharing and code sharing with some of them providing free hosting and free video sharing.
Anti India Content
As per reports, these sites have been blocked because they contained anti-India content. Arvind Gupta, the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party’s national head of the information technology cell said that these blocks were ordered by the Department of Telecom of the Indian government on the advice of the Anti Terrorism Squad.
The websites that have been blocked were based on an advisory by Anti Terrorism Squad, and were carrying Anti India content from ISIS. 1/2
— Arvind Gupta (@buzzindelhi) December 31, 2014
The sites that have removed objectionable content and/or cooperated with the on going investigations, are being unblocked. 2/2
— Arvind Gupta (@buzzindelhi) December 31, 2014
Knee jerk reaction?
Earlier this month, Indian agencies went on overdrive when a British news channel reported that a Twitter account, associated with ISIS was being controlled by an individual based in Bangalore. Indian authorities showed a swiftness in arresting the accused and shutting down the account, a speed of response unheard of in the country. That move was appreciated by the Indian public as well as Internet users but this block is a knee jerk reaction from the Government.
Similarly a few pastes or videos do not mean that entire service is to be blocked. Apparently the honchos in New Delhi dont think so as all of the 32 website blocked are of equal importance to the young and learning generation of India. Sites like Vimeo and Dailymotion are alternatives to YouTube and sites like Freehosting, OOOWebhost, Hpage and iPage provide free and sometimes cheap alternatives to host websites to Internet users. Google’s Blogger also offers similar services.
Anonymous to launch #OpIndia
The Indian chapter of Anonymous hactivist & activist collective have taken a strong objection to the internet censorship being imposed on Internet users in India. In a tweet, AnonOpsIndia has announced that they will start bringing down Indian websites for clamping down on freedom of speech.
They gifted us Censorship on the New Years Eve… Let us all celebrate by bringing down their websites. #OpIndia @YourAnonNews @timesofindia
— AnonOpsIndia (@opindia_revenge) December 31, 2014
Based on this view, will the Indian government block Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and Youtube also, since these websites also provide services similar to above and have been actively used by the cyber terrorist and fundamentalists including ISIS for furthering their viewpoints and recruitment.
Code-sharing site GitHub has a long history of being blocked in countries around the globe. But the power of GitHub is such that even the great wall of Internet, China had to lift the ban on it.
The head of the Indian government’s department of electronics and information technology was not available for comment.