Update 01/02: The government said it has lifted the block on GitHub, Vimeo, Weebly and Daily Motion, but the other websites remain blacklisted.
Our original story is below.
China may be the ‘home’ of global internet censorship, as recent issues accessing Gmail from the country proved, but India seems to be doing its best to rival its neighbor. Today it emerged that the Indian government has asked internet service providers and mobile operators to block access to 32 sites in the name of its censorship laws
GitHub, Archive.org, Imgur, Vimeo, Daily Motion and Pastebin are some of the more familiar names included on the list, a key excerpt of which was made public by Pranesh Pakesh, a director at the Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore.
Update 12/31: So it looks like we have motive. The head of the Bharatiya Janata political party has claimed that the sites were listed because they content from ISIS.
Gupta added that those sites which cooperate and remove the suspected ISIS content will be unblocked. Nonetheless, looking in from the outside, it certainly seems like the issue could have been handled in a clearer way that didn’t involved issuing blanket censorship blocks.
Already it seems that some service providers have taken action and cut access to a number of the websites.
Times Of India reports that its correspondents were not able to access Pastebin, DailyMotion or GitHub using Vodafone’s 3G service, although they were able to get on the three sites via rival operator Airtel’s service.
India’s government has long tried to censor entertainment sites which contain media that it deems ‘unsuitable’ for consumption in the country — just ask Google, which was tried over censorship requests — so it is not surprising to see the likes of Daily Motion and Vimeo on its hit list. The addition of GitHub, which has over 8 million registered users worldwide, however, is one of the more head-scratching decisions — it may be that the contents of a single page from the site which triggered a full blockage request, but clearly that’s a nonsensical decision.
China blocked the code repository service last year, but the forces behind the country’s ‘Great Firewall’ recanted and made GitHub available such is its importance for tech companies and pretty much anyone who codes or uses code.
The same applies to India. You can be sure that there will be uproar among the tech industry such would be the disruption caused by a blanket block on the service.
This week has already seen one high-profile u-turn in India, after Airtel flip-flopped on a controversial plan to charge customers higher internet browsing rates for using VoIP calling services like Skype, and you’d expect the government and/or service providers to make a similar about-turn regarding the more essential services on the list — like Github — once their significance is made clear.
The contents of the list is particularly embarrassing for Prime Minister Narenda Modi, who recently unveiled a ‘Make In India’ campaign designed to promote the country as a destination for companies in a range of verticals, including information technology. Blocking GitHub is most definitely not in sync with that vision.
Hat tip @therealjpk