Kashmir govt working with Cisco to block social media: Report

Cisco’s firewall will facilitate the administration to block social media platforms even after the, soon expected, partial internet ban is lifted

Jammu and Kashmir, Cisco, social media, internet ban, firewall, abrogation of Article 370
The authorities lifted the ban allowing people to use social media websites, but with certain specified restrictions, which was active since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year. File Photo: PTI

The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been facing an all-round internet shutdown for more than six months now with the administration only allowing the people to access 2G services. Even as the access was given in phases covering 165, 301 and 1,485 sites at a time, social media platforms were banned.

However, on Wednesday (March 4), the authorities lifted the ban allowing people to use social media websites, but with certain specified restrictions, which was active since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year.

Related news: 2G internet allowed, social media ban lifted in J&K after six months

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The statement follows a few days after, on February 17, the valley police filed a complaint against people using social media via VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) while urging the people to not use VPN applications.

Meanwhile, a report in The Print stated that the US-based firm Cisco was helping the Kashmir government to develop a firewall that can block social media apps in the valley.

It was noted in the report that Cisco’s firewall will facilitate the administration to block social media platforms even after the partial internet ban is lifted, which is soon expected to happen.

According to official sources, “Cisco Systems will help the administration build a firewall that will prevent internet users in Kashmir from accessing blacklisted websites, including social media portals, through fixed-line connections,” as reported in The Print.

Related news: In Kashmir, crackdown on VPN users shows intention to muzzle opinions

Interestingly, the Jammu and Kashmir administration is said to have joined hands with Cisco to prevent fixed-line internet users from using social media sites.

As per the report, the official source said that employees from the US firm’s Indian branches are currently in Kashmir, working towards “building a stopgap arrangement” and the authorities will “soon be purchasing firewall technologies” from them.

“We are currently testing the temporary stopgap arrangement… and (analysing) if the ban on blacklisted websites is sustainable. This will be followed by purchasing the firewall,” a senior government official disclosed to The Print while mentioning that the authorities are testing a solution to sustain the ban of blacklisted sites.

Related news: Police action against social media firms: A case of shooting the messenger?

In a fresh order issued on Wednesday, the Principal Secretary (J&K) Shaleen Kabra said that unrestricted 2G internet access will be allowed for use, but only for social media apps and the list of websites provided by the government.

The new order shall be applicable only till March 17 on an experimental basis and direct internet access would be available to people across J&K.

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