A public outcry erupted over social media as the government issued orders blocking 32 websites, including Vimeo, Dailymotion, archive.org, Pastebin and Github.
Vimeo and Dailymotion are popular video-sharing sites that have been banned in the past for other reasons. Pastebin and Github store important tools for developers and coders. These sites have come under the scanner for the first time.
The government was slammed for “censorship”, as it did not explain the reasons. However, it was speculated that the websites were carrying some “anti-India” content from Islamic State (IS), the terrorist organisation active in West Asia.
However, the blocking seems inconsistent, with some service providers immediately acting on the government order, with others yet to comply. Also, some websites have been unblocked after they cooperated with investigative agencies. It could not be ascertained as to access of which websites are now free.
In December, the police arrested Mehdi Masroor Biswas, who operated a pro-IS Twitter handle from Bangalore, after a British channel ran a story on him.
An official close to the new development said the government should be praised for pro-actively reacting to an issue which could have possibly turned into a bigger problem.
However, another cyber expert said it was a knee-jerk reaction and blocking sites was not the correct solution.
“The government should not block entire sites. Instead, the specific pages carrying problematic content should be blocked,” said the official. “Technology allows for such targeted blocking is called central DNS URL filtering. The government should employ these mechanisms.”
The official said the blocking of sites such as Github might not be completely unwarranted as it often becomes a platform for malware and exploits development. Sites such as archive.org may contain past references to some “anti-India” content.
“But, there are no straight answers to monitoring the cyber world,” the official said. “It is like looking for a needle in a haystack, without knowing what to find and where.”
Here are the list of websites: