India accused of censorship as Internet Archive is blocked unexpectedly

9 Aug 2017

Students working online. Image: CRS PHOTO/Shutterstock

The Indian government is being accused of censorship after the Internet Archive, designed to catalogue everything, was mysteriously blocked.

Without any prior warning, the Indian government has blocked access to the online service known as the Internet Archive – or, the Wayback Machine to some – to anyone within its borders.

According to MediaNama, the ban appeared suddenly and without warning, with access being lost to all of the major network providers, such as Airtel and MTNL. Users were told that it has been blocked “as per the directions of the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India”.

Future Human

The Internet Archive is popular as a way for people to see what websites looked like more than a decade ago, but its real purpose, according to its administrators, is to make sure content in the public interest across the globe is not deleted forever by governments or individuals.

This has sparked accusations that the Indian government is engaging in censorship by trying to block people’s access to the site.

Responding to the decision, the Internet Archive said that it has reached out to the Indian government for an explanation but has not received a response, at least not since a previous attempt to block it and other sites back in 2014 and 2015.

“Obviously, we are disappointed and concerned by this situation and are very eager to understand why it’s happening and see full access restored to,” it said.

Going by recent figures, the non-profit group has catalogued more than 510bn pages.

Global internet censorship?

The block comes after some of India’s largest Asian and European neighbours revealed new laws that would prevent people from using VPNs, which hide their location and identity.

First announced by China, Russia soon followed, raising fears that the countries are trying to ramp up their control of what their people can and cannot see.

The Internet Archive revealed in January that it was cataloguing all material on US president Donald Trump in case he tried to have any controversial material removed online.

Students working online. Image:  CRS PHOTO/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic