India’s Net Neutrality Standards Questioned As Multiple Non-Torrent Sites Shut Off

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The Telegram logo is seen on a screen of a smartphone in this picture illustration taken April 13, 2018. (Photo: REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin/File Photo)

Social media users and internet experts in India have started expressing confusion and disappointment over the recent blockage of Reddit, Telegram, and other websites in some regions. The government has not offered any comments on questions if it ordered the blocks or not.

According to Reuters, advocacy organizations are not sure why India's leading internet providers are blocking websites that do not seem to violate any of the country's internet policies. "It's not making any sense, what's happening," executive director at Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), Apar Gupta, said of the issue.

The Indian government has particularly asked internet providers to block pornography and torrent sites for reasons of child protection and copyright infringement cases. However, websites that do not fall under these categories have been blocked, causing confusion among internet users and advocacy groups alike.

Messaging service platform Telegram, international discussion board Reddit, and even comedic website College Humor have been shut off from Indian internet over the past few months.

Gupta noted that the blockage on certain non-torrent websites happened without any notices provided beforehand. As a result, screenshot images of the blocks have started circulating online. The screenshots displayed notifications stating that the website's users are trying to access have been blocked due to government requests.

CollegeHumor.com, in particular, displayed this message when the outlet tried to access the site on Wednesday: "Your requested URL has been blocked as per the directions received from Department of Telecommunications, Government of India." The government has yet to respond to questions related to the issue.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Reddit users complained of the difficulties they've experienced while accessing the website which resulted in its restoration. However, users in some Indian regions said they still can't get through the site.

Reddit was also reportedly blocked on the Vodafone network for intermittent periods. Some internet experts have provided information on how to fix the issue on Vodafone networks and PCs but it is unclear if the fixes and settings tweaks provided are applicable for all internet users in the country.

In February, Digital Music News reported that India is also blocking SoundCloud following government orders that asked ISPs to disallow access to websites it deemed were "unethical" but internet users questioned if the country's net neutrality policies were still ethical as SoundCloud offers options for sharing music.

Reddit, Vodafone, College Humor, and Telegram have yet to issue official statements on the blocks. Indian ISPs such as Reliance Jio have previously started disallowing access to some VPN sites as part of the government's scheme on censorship.

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