Pastebin Access Restored in India After Government Censorship Sweep

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Pastebin is accessible in India after being blocked by India’s Department of Telecom (DoT), along with 31 other websites, on Dec. 31, 2014. Several other sites, including Vimeo, Weebly, Dailymotion, and gist.github became available late last week, however 27 sites remain blocked.

A list of the 32 sites originally blocked, which includes the currently blocked Internet Archive and Codepad, was tweeted by Center for Internet and Society (Bangalore, India) Policy Director Pranesh Prakash shortly after the censorship took effect on New Year’s Eve.

Questions remain about the reasoning for the online censorship, but ZDNet reports that a request filed by Director General of Police, Anti Terrorism Squad (M.S. Mumbai) on Nov. 10 led to an order by the DoT issued on Dec. 17.

An official statement by the Indian government’s Press Information Bureau said that the blocked sites had been accused of “being used for Jihadi Propaganda. It was stated that Anti National group are using social media for mentoring Indian youths to join the Jihadi activities…Many of these websites doe not require any authentication for pasting any material on them.”

National Head of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Arvind Gupta tweeted that the blocked websites were carrying anti-India content from ISIS, and that those sites which cooperated or removed offending content were being restored.

Pastebin and Vimeo both deny having received requests, let alone complied with them, to remove content. Pastebin told ZDNet that communication with government agencies has been sparse and “strange.”

Religious tensions have risen in India since the election of the explicitly Hindu BJP took power in May elections. Allegations of forced conversions may have caught the attention of Jihadi propagandists, or prompted increased caution by the Indian government.

Excessive censorship could dramatically effect India’s economy, which is predicted to include $15 billion in ecommerce by 2016, and includes a significant developer community which could have its productivity hindered by blocks on sites like github and Codepad. Censorship could also spook potential partners in President Modi’s proposed “Digital India” plan.

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