New Delhi: India’s Department of Telecom, which seems to have a penchant for blocking genuine and reliable websites just on the basis of a complaint, has struck again. And this time it has blocked 32 websites. The list of the blocked websites include Vimeo, which is a YouTube like video host, and Github, a website used by software developers to host and share programming code.
In an order apparently issued on December 16, the DoT has directed internet service providers to block 32 websites. Unlike in the past when such directives have targeted file-sharing websites, this time websites that allow users to share URLs are primary victims. Apart from Vimeo and GitHub, Pastebin, Archive.org, Pastie, CryptBin are among the list of banned URLs.
The order was shared on Twitter by Pranesh Prakash, policy director at Bangalore-based Centre for Internet and Society.
The order says that if internet service providers don’t comply with the demand they are liable to attract penalty.
This is not the first time a number of genuine and harmless websites have been blocked in India. Earlier, acting on flimsy complaints, courts in India have ordered mass blocking of websites.
While almost all these orders blocking websites seem arbitrary the latest one is particularly incredulous.
“Thanks DoT India on blocking @github @pastebin and @imgur. Block such services in a country where most of IT work is outsourced. #Irony,” a Twitter user commented.
Update: Arvind Gupta, national head of BJP4’s IT Cell, on Twitter said that the websites have been blocked due to security reasons.
“The websites that have been blocked were based on an advisory by Anti Terrorism Squad, and were carrying Anti India content from ISIS,” he said. “The sites that have removed objectionable content and/or cooperated with the on going investigations, are being unblocked.”
While it is possible that security reasons led to blocking of websites, it doesn’t explain why popular sites like Vimeo and Github, which hosts computer code and is used by thousands of developers and technology companies, are blocked. Also, it doesn’t explain why websites like Twitter and Facebook, where ISIS routinely posts content, are not blocked.