India blocks 32 websites, including GitHub, Internet Archive, Pastebin, Vimeo

Internet users in India are starting to lose access to websites including GitHub, Internet Archive, Pastebin, and Vimeo under an order from India's DoT (Department of Telecom). UPDATED.
Written by Violet Blue, Contributor

Internet users in India are starting to lose to access websites including GitHub, Internet Archive, Pastebin, and Vimeo under an order from India's DoT (Department of Telecom).

Update January 1, 2015 4:50pm PST: Vimeo has informed ZDNet that the block on Vimeo has been lifted. Vimeo provided this statement: "India's Ministry of Communication and Information Technology issued a statement yesterday indicating that the order blocking Vimeo had been lifted. We're grateful for this decision and we look forward to having access to Vimeo restored in India soon." See: India lifts block on Vimeo; Pastebin, Internet Archive, others still banned.

It appears an order to block the sites issued on December 17 is taking effect -- albeit unevenly.

Today, Centre for Internet and Society (Bangalore, India) Policy Director Pranesh Prakash posted a copy of the notice listing the 32 blocked URLs.

Problems accessing GitHub are going to be especially painful for India's enormous developer workforce, and will definitely impact both India's domestic and outsourced software development business sector.

The notice reads:

To: All Internet Service Licensees Sub:
Direction to block Internet Website

Under the powers conferred by Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and under the Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009, it has been decided to immediately block the access to the following 32 URLs:

The URLs listed include: justpaste,it, hastebin.com, codepad.org, pastie.org, pastee.org, paste2.org, slexy.org, paste4btc.com, 0bin.net, heypasteit.com, sourceforge.net/projects/phorkie, atnsoft.com/textpaster, archive.org, hpage.com, ipage.com, webs.com, weebly.com, 000webhost.com, freehosting.com, vimeo.com, dailymotion.com, pastebin.com, gist.github.com, ipaste.eu, thesnippetapp.com, snipt.net, tny.cz (Tinypaste), github.com (gist-it), snipplr.com, termbin.com, snippetsource.net, cryptbin.com.

India's internet users are beginning to feel the sting, though the blocks are being reported by Indian internet users on Reddit and Twitter as being unevenly applied.

A matter of Indian National Security?

One Indian official said ISIS propaganda is the cause for blocking the nearly three dozen websites.

Arvind Gupta, the national head of Indian political party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), announced on Twitter that, "The websites that have been blocked were based on an advisory by Anti Terrorism Squad, and were carrying Anti India content from ISIS."

Gupta added, "The sites that have removed objectionable content and/or cooperated with the on going investigations, are being unblocked."

Mr. Gupta then re-Tweeted a user whose access to Vimeo had been restored.

The experience of blocked websites Vimeo and Internet Archive contradicts Mr. Gupta's tweet, though he told Quartz he was speaking officially at the time.

When reached for comment, Vimeo said that while it does immediately respond to remove terrorist materials, it had not been contacted, nor was working with, the Indian government about this matter.

A Vimeo spokesperson told ZDNet,

It is Vimeo's longstanding policy not to allow videos that promote terrorism, and we remove such videos whenever we become aware of them.

As of this morning, we have not received notice from the Indian government, and have contacted them requesting the blocking order to identify, and evaluate any videos in question. It is our hope that Vimeo can be restored promptly in India.

After the publication of this article, Vimeo informed ZDNet that India's block on Vimeo was lifted.

News that the blocked sites seemed to be working with the Indian government to remove material apparently left the Internet Archive out of the loop.

IA only said on December 31 that it had been hearing about blocked access from its Indian visitors.

Pastebin first Tweeted about the Indian block on December 19, and followed up on December 26 when it advised users on Facebook:

Pastebin is still blocked in India. We are getting many reports about this.

The Indian government has blocked us, and right now there is little we can do about it.

It has happened in the past, and we got unblocked after some time. For now we recommend using a free proxy service if you are based in India.

Redditors in India: United We Stand have been discussing the blocks on Reddit threads confirming that some of the listed sites have been blocked by Vodafone, BSNL, ACT Fibrenet, Hathway Cable & Datacom LTD. (Bangalore), among others.

Vodaphone India is the second largest mobile network operator in India (after Airtel) with an estimated 173 million customers. BNSL (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited) is an Indian state-owned telco witha a customer base of 117 million. ACT Fibrenet is a broadband provider claiming one million subscribers; Hathway Cable & Datacom LTD. provides cable internet and serves approximately 11 million customers (with 430,000 estimated to use its broadband ISP).

The Times of India reported this morning it could not access Github and DailyMotion (among others) on Vodafone saying, "is not displaying any errors and is simply blocking access. However, a number of users report that they're getting an error that says 'the site is blocked as per the instructions of Competent Authority.'"

Times of India added, "We were able to access all the websites on Airtel 3G."

Updated Wednesday December 31 1:50 pm PST to add Vimeo's statement.

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