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Updated: #IndiaBlocks: Why Is Airtel Blocking File Sharing Sites?

Update: our readers are suggesting that the block is on other ISPs as well. Additionally, MediaNama has also confirmed that the block was instituted because the Delhi High Court passed a John Doe order, allowing Reliance Big Pictures to prevent piracy of its movie Singham. Reliance Big Pictures then told ISPs to prevent the sharing of the film Singham online, because of which ISPs blocked access to filesharing sites. Details here.

Earlier today: It appears that Bharti Airtel has started blocking selected file sharing sites for its customers on both Internet and Mobile, or is at least testing such blocking. This was first reported by Sushubh of India Broadband Forum, late evening, yesterday, when Airtel started blocking file sharing sites including Mediafire.com, Megaupload.com, Rapidshare.com, Sendspace.com, Megavideo.com, VideoBB.com, Novamov.com, Movshare.com, Putlocker.com, Hotfile.com, Fileserve.com, Filesonic.com, Filesonic.in, Depositfiles.com, Wupload.com, Uploaded.to, and Uploadstation.com.

We tried accessing all the above sites and found that all except Mediafire, Sendspace and Rapidshare were working on an Airtel broadband connection. The pages were redirecting  to a landing page which mentions that “The site has been blocked as per instructions from the Department of Telecom.” Update: Mediafire works some times.

We tried accessing the same sites through a Vodafone 3G, and both MTNL broadband and MTNL 3G connection and found that they had not been blocked.

Here is a trace route path to Sendspace, one of the blocked sites. As a user on the India Broadband Forum pointed out, the requests go through flagtel servers in all cases of blocked sites.

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This block looks similar to the recent block in March, where Airtel and a few other ISPs had blocked access to Typepad.com, Mobango.com and Clickatell.com, redirecting subscribers to a similar landing page. Although, in its response to an RTI application filed by us, the DoT had said that it had not ordered ISPs to block the sites in question, some ISPs continue to block them. Airtel had not responded to us then.

We’ve written to Airtel, requesting clarification on why it has blocked these sites, but really, if orders have not been received by Airtel from the Department of Telecom (as was the case with the block in March), then this amounts to Internet censorship from the company. Questions that we’ve sent to Airtel:

– Why have MediaFire, Sendspace and Rapidshare been blocked on Airtel broadband and Airtel mobile Internet connections?
– Did Airtel receive a notification/circular/request/order from DoT requesting blocking these sites or specific pages hosted by these sites?
– Did Airtel receive a notification/circular/request/order from any government department requesting blocking these sites or specific pages hosted by these sites?
– What is the process by which Airtel will remove these blocks.

If there is no such request from the DoT, then it is rather convenient for the company – prevent file sharing and bandwidth consumption, and pass the buck on to the DoT.

Meanwhile do send us screenshots with full details of your ISP if you are not able to access any of these sites.

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