Social media access in Valley: Telcos race to block VPNs

The users, however, began using VPNs from different mobile networks to access the restricted social networking sites.

Published: 19th February 2020 10:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th February 2020 10:20 AM   |  A+A-

A female journalist uses internet on her mobile phone after the government restored internet services in Srinagar. (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

SRINAGAR: The “cat and mouse” game is going on in Kashmir between the internet service providers and the internet users over firewalls to blocks access to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to prevent use of social networking sites.After restoration of 2G mobile internet on January 25, authorities had directed internet service providers in the Valley to allow access to only white-listed websites, whose number has been increased from 301 to 1,483. All social networking sites, including WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook, have been blocked.

The users, however, began using VPNs from different mobile networks to access restricted social networking sites. A police official said some people are misusing the internet through VPNs by posting objectionable posts, pictures and videos on social networking sites. With an increase in flow of posts on such sites, the central government has pressed internet service providers to block use of VPNs using firewalls. State-owned BSNL procured firewall equipment, including software worth ` 4 crore, to block use of VPNs.

Sources said a BSNL technical team has apprised top officials that it is difficult to allow access a few hundred websites and block the rest including VPNs. They said a delay in setting up “concrete” firewall to block black-listed websites has led to delay in restoration of broadband internet in the Valley. The two private service providers Jio and Airtel also made attempts to block use of VPNs on their networking by upgrading the “firewalls” last week. A telecom expert said it is difficult for service providers to completely block use of VPNs.

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