7 Month Long Ban On Social Media In Kashmir Lifted

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SRINAGAR – In a sudden and surprise move authorities in Jammu and Kashmir Wednesday evening lifted the seven month long ban on social media even as internet access remained restricted to 2G on post paid phones only.

According to media reports, the administration today eased communication blockade and allowed users to access social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp. The broadband service too was restored in the Valley after 7-month communication clampdown.

“Wired broadband internet services in the Kashmir Valley will be restored in full and access to social media websites will be permitted from this evening, NDTV report quoted a senior BSNL official as saying.

Earlier, only access to white-listed sites was allowed as the service was restored for a week on January 25 and subsequently extended from time to time, after being snapped on August 5 last year when the Centre abrogated the special status to the erstwhile state and bifurcated it into two union territories.

The fresh order was issued by Principal Secretary, Home, Shaleen Kabra after assessment of the impact of telecom services regulation on the overall security situation and maintenance of public order and reports of law enforcement agencies.

The order said the internet speed on mobile data service will be restricted to 2G only and the post paid SIM card holders would continue to be provided access to the internet.

However, Kabra said the services would not be made available on pre-paid SIM cards unless verified as per the norms applicable for postpaid connections.

As the period of extension of services was set to expire on Wednesday, the Home Department ordered that 2G mobile data service and fixed line internet connectivity with certain restrictions will now continue till March 17, unless modified earlier.

About fixed line internet connectivity, the Principal Secretary said the Internet connectivity would continue to be made available with Mac Binding.

Mac Binding essentially means to enforce a client machine to work from a particular Internet Protocol address.

“It is further directed that the access/communication facilities provided by the government Viz e-terminals/internet kiosks apart from special arrangements for tourists, students, traders etc shall continue,” Kabra said in the order.

He asked the Inspector Generals of Police, Kashmir and Jammu divisions, to ensure communication of these directions to service providers forthwith and also ensure implementation of the directions with immediate effect.

While continuing the ban on social media, authorities had last month said that anti-national elements and people across the border continue to “misuse” these networking sites allowing peer-to-peer communication and virtual private networks (VPNs).

The cyber cell of Police had also filed a case last month and started a major crackdown against the misuse of social media by users via virtual private networks (VPNs). Many youth were arrested by police for alleged misuse of social networking websites using VPNs.

VPNs became widely popular in Kashmir Valley, as people could access the social networking websites, despite hectic efforts by the government to plug the loopholes.

The restrictions on mobile and internet services were partially eased after the Supreme Court said in January that access to the Internet is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the Constitution and asked the government to review the curbs.  (With PTI inputs)

Also Read: CISCO Denies Building Firewall to Restrict Internet in J&K

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