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2G mobile internet for accessing 301 whitelisted websites restored in Jammu and Kashmir

2G mobile internet for accessing 301 whitelisted websites, and mobile phone services, was restored in Jammu and Kashmir on January 26, news agency PTI reported. 2G mobile internet services were restored around 9 pm, while mobile services were restored at 4 pm, the report said. Despite access being restored to these sites on January 24, the services were suspended in the union territory on January 25, due to “security reasons” ahead of Republic Day celebrations in the country, the report said.

On January 24, the Jammu and Kashmir Home Department had said that both postpaid and prepaid users in certain districts of Jammu and Kashmir will be able to access whitelisted websites on 2G speeds, starting from January 25. Access to social media platforms, including WhatsApp, remains prohibited in the UT, and telecom service providers will have to verify prepaid SIM users — in line with norms applicable for post paid mobile connections —  before allowing them to access the whitelisted websites. This order will be in force till January 31. Before that, on January 18, the union territory’s home department had released a list of 153 websites that could be accessed in parts of Jammu and Kashmir. The January 24 order, added 148 more websites to the whitelist.

Mainstream news websites, search engines whitelisted: Access to 59 mainstream news outlets — such as ndtv.com, sroll.in, wire.in — has been allowed in the latest order. Search engines such as google.com, search.yahoo.com, have also been granted permission. Interestingly, google.ca and google.co.uk were also whitelisted. Although, readers should remember that while it might look like an “internet restoration” order, this restoration is restricted to only 301 websites, and households in select areas of the UT can access these sites only on 2G speeds. Also, merely giving access to search engines, on its own, achieves nothing unless people search only for other whitelisted websites via these search engines. 

Read More: The beginnings of the Great Firewall of India?

Old issues still remain: Jio Chat, which was whitelisted in the previous list itself, continues to be on the latest list, despite providing a “fully encrypted” chat facility according to the chat window within the application. The application’s privacy policy nowhere states that the platform is encrypted. Moreover, Jio Chat’s privacy policy, which was updated on January 1, 2020, states: 

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“You accept the inherent security implications of providing unencrypted information over Internet/ cellular/data/ Wi-Fi networks and will not hold the Company responsible for any breach of security or the disclosure of personal information unless the Company has been grossly and wilfully negligent.” — from Jio Chat’s privacy policy [emphasis ours]

On Jio Chat’s chat window, it says text messages are “fully encrypted”

  • hajcomitee.in” is still present on the updated list, despite being an invalid URL, as we had previously pointed out.

Not many whitelisted websites are usable: Prateek Waghre, of Takshashila Institute, tweeted that of the 153 websites that were whitelisted on January 18, 80 websites were “practically unusable,” since “the way most websites are designed, a lot of content comes from subdomains, CDNs. They also have 3rd party content like analytics services, ads, various libraries that manage the UI etc. [sic] None of this worked because there were not on the whitelist”.

The Supreme Court had earlier said that access to the internet is part of free speech: This phased access to internet continues even though the Supreme Court, on January 10, declared that the right to internet is also part of freedom of speech and expression, and an indefinite ban on the internet is an abuse of power. The court ordered the Jammu & Kashmir administration to review all restrictive orders within seven days, and put out all restrictive orders since August last year so that they can be challenged in a court of law. It also said that suspending the internet should be reviewed hereon, and such suspension could only be for a limited time period and is subject to judicial scrutiny.

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