Srinagar: Two day after government ordered suspension of social media till further orders to curtail protests and restore normalcy in Kashmir valley, cellular companies, including BSNL, are struggling to impose the gag on 22 banned networking sites, including Facebook and Whatsapp.
However, Airtel is the only company which has successfully blocked social media sites though its users allege that they are able to access these sites through virtual private network (VPN).
Meanwhile, Aircel has completely barred the 2G services in the valley, where 3G and 4G services of all cellular companies remained suspended since April 17 in view of an upward spiral of protests by students.
Interestingly, all these 22 banned sites are accessible on BSNL 2G service while only Facebook is barred on broadband of the state run company in the valley. But, a significant number of BSNL broadband users claimed to have updated their Facebook status by using VPN, hence bypassing the curb on the site.
The state Home Department had on April 26 directed all cellular companies, including Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), to block messaging services, besides social networking sites, including Facebook with immediate effect, for a period of one month or till further orders, whichever is earlier.
The order said it has been observed that some elements are transmitting objectionable contents to spread disaffection among the public at large in Kashmir against the state administration and the security forces, with a view to incite them to commit various offences at a large scale, cause damage to life and property and disturb peace and tranquility.
Social networking sites which were directed to be blocked included Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, WeChat, Ozone, QQ, Google+, Tumblr, Baidu, Viber, Line, Pinterest, Snapchat, Telegram, Skype and Reditt.
The government had invoked the powers conferred on it under Indian Telegraph Act 1885 read with Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules 2007 to ban these sites and applications.
On careful examination of all relevant factors, it is observed that the use of social media platforms, which are being misused by anti-national and anti-social elements by transmitting inflammatory messages in various forms, are immediately required to be regulated/curbed, the order reads.
The order further said that the anti-national and inimical elements largely succeed in transmitting unverified, objectionable and inflammatory material and content through the medium of these social networking sites.
It is being felt that continued misuse of social networking sites and instant messaging services is likely to be detrimental to the interests of peace and tranquility in the state, it said.
It was also observed during law and order disturbances of 2016 in the Kashmir valley that anti-national and subversive elements extensively misused social media sites and instant messaging services for vitiating peace and instigating violence, which caused large scale damage to life and property, it added.
From last over a month, social media, particularly Facebook, was being used by the local youth to live stream demonstrations and clashes with security forces, allegedly triggering more protests.
Social media was also being used to upload alleged atrocities by the Army and other security agencies and student clashes with security forces during the last two weeks in the Valley. A video, which showed CRPF personnel being hackled during the bypolls to Srinagar Parliamentary Constituency on April 9, also invited criticism.
Meanwhile, mobile Internet services of all cellular companies, including the BSNL, remained suspended since April 17, in view of an upward spiral in protests by the students against the use of alleged disproportionate force by security forces on students in Degree College Pulwama on April 15.
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