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India blocks access to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine #Censorship

By  Nikhil Pahwa 

In what is an inexplicable instance of censorship, India appears to have blocked access to the Internet Archive (also known as the Internet Wayback Machine). The block seems to be new, and is currently propagating. We checked, and on visiting web.archive.org via Airtel (Delhi, mobile) and MTNL (Delhi, wireline) connections, we’re getting the following boilerplate blocking message:

“Your requested URL has been blocked as per the directions received from the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India. Please contact administrator for more information.”

MediaNama has reached out to the Internet Archive for comment.

On MTNL (Delhi): At times the site works, and at times it shows a typical blocking message. Perhaps the block hasn’t been implemented fully yet.

On Airtel (Delhi): the site is blocked, and there’s an Airtel ad being shown.

The Internet Wayback Machine is among the most important sites on the Internet: it’s a non profit which has been archiving the web for over 20 years now. As of October 2016, it had archived over 510 billion time-stamped web objects, including 273 billion webpages from over 361 million websites, taking up 15 petabytes of storage.The site allows users to archive web pages, access archived webpages for free, and also hosts a large amount of free content, including music which is out of copyright, movies, videos, software etc. According to Wikipedia, it hosts “nearly three million public-domain books.”

Note that several UIDAI related documents, which have been otherwise removed from their website, are accessible on the Internet Archive.

A series of tweets from Anand Venkatanarayanan pointing toward UIDAI documents archived at the Internet Archive here.

How you can help:

  • We’re trying to get a copy of the blocking order, so if you have it, please do email me at [email protected].
  • Leave a comment with details of your ISP, City and whether you’re accessing via Internet or mobile Internet, and whether the link is working for you. The link for the Internet Archive: here.

On India and Blocking

As I’d mentioned in 2013, we need more transparency from the government of India when it comes to blocks. In this instance, we know that a site has been blocked, and who has ordered the block, but there are two aspects missing: why has the website been blocked, and what is the recourse for getting the block removed: there is not email address or phone number mentioned for the administrator. We won’t even know whether the block is because of a court order, or is it a ministry decision. There is clear lack of transparency from both the government of India, which does not publish a list of blocked pages, nor is the ISP clarifying any of these concerns.

Lack of transparency leads to lack of trust. Transparency will ensure accountability from government and ISPs.

Update: Internet Archive contacted Indian govt regarding the block, but got no response

1 Comment

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  1. The blocking is very unfortunate. This is another instance of content censorship by the rulers. There should be transparency and detailed information of blockage should be released

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