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Many Indian users unable to access search engine DuckDuckGo; possibly blocked

DuckDuckGo, a search engine that does not profile its users, appears to have been blocked in India. Users started reporting that they were unable to access the site on Wednesday. One user saw a message indicating that the block was ordered by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). This is the same message that appears when the block is the result of a court order.

We were not able to access the site on Airtel broadband and 4G and it was also reportedly inaccessible on Jio and Vodafone. Even the app did not work on an Airtel 4G network, but we could access the site via Tor Browser, both on desktop and mobile. The site continues to work for the moment on ACT Broadband, indicating that ISPs are still in the process of complying with the order, if any. At the moment, it is unclear what the reason for this blocking is. We have reached out to the Department of Telecommunications and DuckDuckGo for comment. The company has acknowledged the issue on Twitter, telling users that it is looking into the blocking.

The two main possibilities are that it was blocked under instructions from the DoT, or from a court order. On June 2, WeTransfer was blocked in India over what the DoT described as security concerns. On top of a specific file that was shared over the filesharing website (whose validity anyway expired around the time the website was blocked), the DoT ordered the entire domain to be blocked.

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If a court order is indeed behind this blocking, there is good precedent. In response to a John Doe petition in the Madras High Court in 2018 by Bollywood studios that included hundreds of filesharing websites, the Internet Archive, an online library that also operates the webpage snapshot service WayBackMachine, was blocked for a while. Also blocked in that duration was Adobe’s Behance, a website where graphic designers shared their work. Those blocks were later reversed.

Read:How does a Section 69A blocking order come into existence?

This week, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, under Section 69A, ordered that 59 Chinese apps be blocked in India, over data security concerns. This ban came amid the border tensions between India and China.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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