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J&K: Govt’s social media ban fails as people take to VPNs to use internet

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | YUSUF JAMEEL
Published Apr 30, 2017, 9:23 pm IST
Updated Apr 30, 2017, 9:24 pm IST
The govt had banned 22 social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp in the Kashmir for 1 month or until further orders.
Representational image (Photo: File)
 Representational image (Photo: File)

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government’s recent harsh move of imposing a blanket ban on 22 social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp in the restive Kashmir Valley for a period of one month or till further orders has virtually failed.

A vast majority of the users are now accessing these platforms through Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

 

Initially, it was the Internet-savvy generation of the Valley which quickly turned to free VPN to bypass the ban.

Over the past three days, more and more people have switched to VPNs which not only allowed to bypass censorship but also kept all online activities confidential which in turn has made a mockery of the official ban.

Some countries, including China which practice Internet censorship have banned VPNs to maintain a bird’s eye view on all online movements made by their citizens and also to control the information they have access to by censoring websites.  

VPN is considered as the most efficient and effective way to anonymously surf online as it is a key element that helps one to become invisible.  

It can effectively unblock online television websites, easily access websites that are geographically restricted, independently secure all sensitive information and bypass a country’s web censorship.

Jammu and Kashmir's Home Department issued a formal order asking the Internet service providers (ISPs) to stop transmission of 22 networking sites in Kashmir with immediate effect, but failed to enforce the ban completely as the subscribers had access to these sites and applications directly or through the use of VPN.

Though the telecom companies and other service providers have now succeeded in prevailing over the technical hitches that were making the task difficult for them, the people have already made the ban irrelevant by switching to VPNs.

An official statement issued in the winter capital Jammu on Wednesday had said that the social media and other sites have been banned in the Valley "in the interest of maintenance of public order" and that the order to this effect was issued by the government in exercise of powers conferred by sub-section (2) of Section-5 of the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 read with the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules, 2007.

The order directed all ISPs that any message or class of messages to or from any person or class of persons relating to any subject, or any pictorial content through the social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, QQ, We Chat, Qzone, Tumbir, Google+, Baidu, Skype, Viber, Line, Snapchat, Pinterest, Telegram, Reddit, Snapfish, You Tube (upload), Vine, Xanga, Buzznet and Flickr shall not be transmitted in the Kashmir Valley, with immediate effect, for a period of one month or  till further orders.

The order signed by the Principal Secretary to the government (Home Department) had warned that any violation shall be dealt with in accordance with the relevant provisions of law.

It claimed that as per available inputs, over a period of time, a progressively increasing trend has been witnessed with regard to misuse of social media, like Facebook and Twitter "by the elements inimical to public order and tranquility, thereby impinging on public safety, particularly in the Kashmir Valley".

The Internet services have been banned in the state on several occasions earlier also but it is for the first time that the State Home Department has issued formal orders to proscribe social and other related media.

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