How the Mumbai police managed to block Vimeo and Github in India

Fighting terror—online and offline.
Fighting terror—online and offline.
Image: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
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The Indian government’s decision to ban 32 websites—including Github and Vimeo—has been in the works for over a month, according to documents reviewed by Quartz.

On Nov. 11, 2014, Mumbai’s additional chief metropolitan magistrate ordered the Indian government’s department of electronics and information technology (DEIT) to act on a complaint received by the city’s Byculla Police Station and block the sites on a “top priority basis.”

Certain contents on the sites “appear to be posted with the intention of creating unrest, breach of peace, and communal disharmony,” the court said. “This might result in law and order problem in India.”

Anti-terror request

Then, on Nov. 15, Maharashtra’s anti-terrorism squad (ATS) also dispatched a letter requesting DEIT to block 32 websites that “were 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,” DEIT said in a statement.

The ATS noted that some of these sites were being used by ISIL (a.k.a Islamic State or IS) to “motivate other Indians.”

For instance, they had been used to disseminate information about Areeb Majeed—a 23-year-old from Kalyan, who had apparently joined ISIL in Iraq—and Anwar Husain, an Indian national from Karnataka who reportedly died while fighting in Afghanistan in 2014.

“These websites works on page hosting concept. Many of these websites does not require any authentication. Other upload articles, videos or photos or to download the contents which helps to hide the identities,” DEIT said.

“These websites were being used frequently for pasting (and) communicating such content by just changing page name even blocking the earlier one,” it added.

Some unblocked

DEIT said that it had reached out to some of the 32 website, and a few had already “undertaken not to allow pasting of such propaganda information.”

Subsequently, four websites—Weebly, Vimeo, Dailymotion and Github—are being unblocked.

However, the fate of the remaining 28 websites remains unclear.