Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) administration has completely blocked the Virtual Private Network (VPNs), which were used by the local civilians to access banned social media sites including WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.
According to a Kashmir-based social activist, the administration has banned VPN applications that were widely used in the Valley to access black-listed social media sites. “Only one VPN is working over the airtel. However, it is punishingly slow,” he said.
The step has been taken as a precautionary measure before establishing the broadband services in the Valley. Earlier the Centre had stated that the internet restrictions will be lifted on March 4. However, only 301 white-listed sites will remain accessible. J&K administration told media that VPNs were misused by anti-national elements — including people across the border — to further terror-related activities in Kashmir.
“The government restored the 2G internet services in January but banned some social media apps. We found a way to access them through VPNs. However, it was too slow. Now it is completely gone,” added the activist in despair.
Another journalist who asked anonymity told Businessline that he operates from Jammu as he works for a local wire news service, it is extremely important for him to be expeditious in providing breaking news. “2G internet is too slow and the phone hangs constantly if you use VPN apps. I file my stories from Jammu after collecting the information from my sources at Media Centre in Srinagar.”
The Central Government, in an official release on February 15, stated, “Once the new censorship system is installed, 4G services will be restored. For now, the people of J&K will have to bear this for the greater good of the country.”
According to media reports, the J&K administration is coordinating with Cisco to develop firewall technology to refrain people from using banned social media sites.
For broadband restoration, especially for companies that rely on the internet, businessmen have to sign bonds with the government complying with their terms and conditions. The administration has also asked them not to allow IP addresses for accessing social media.
The bond also deters the use of VPNs, WiFi, encrypted files, videos and uploading of photos. All USB ports of the computer will have to be disabled also, as per the media reports.
The business entities are required to provide complete access to their server, content, and infrastructure as and when asked by the security agencies.
And, action will be taken against the companies not adhering to the rules and regulations. Minimum Access Control (MAC) will ensure restriction on the use of internet access to registered devices through a single PC.
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