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VLC’s website has been down for over two months in India

There’s still no clear reason why it might have been blocked.

VideoLAN’s website— www.videolan.org— has been blocked in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology under the Information Technology Act, 2000. A quick glance at the website reveals a white screen dotted with the notice that the website has been blocked.

What is VLC: VLC media player is a free and open-source media player software and streaming media server. It is available on major operating systems like Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.

Who is behind VLC: VideoLAN is a non-profit organisation which develops software that can play video and other media formats on various devices.

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Why VLC is so popular: VLC Media Player is often considered to be one of the most popular media players according to TechRadar because it is:

  • Available for free
  • Supports nearly all file formats without the need to download additional codecs
  • Optimises video and audio playback as per the device
  • Offers streaming
  • Extended with downloadable plugins which enable integration with other programs and streaming services

Since when has the website been blocked? It is difficult to ascertain the date but a quick perusal of social media tells you that the website has been down since March.

Availability on app stores: VLC’s mobile apps seem to be available for download on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

Is the ban uniform? The ban does not seem to be uniform as it seems unavailable on mobile carrier networks such as Airtel, Vodafone, and Jio as well as some broadband services but available on other broadband services like Railwire.

Why it has been blocked: MeitY’s order does not elaborate on why the website was blocked and it is unlikely that the ministry will reveal why it moved to block the website. MediaNama has filed an RTI to understand the reason behind the blocking and will update this post once we get a response.

Has MeitY blocked websites before? A parliamentary response revealed that MeitY has blocked as many as 6,096 websites or URLs in 2021 in the Lok Sabha.

  • It has blocked more than 9,000 websites in 2020, the response revealed.
  • The response revealed that the total number of blocked URLs since 2015 stood at 20,14,471.
  • MeitY did not specify why these URLs had been blocked by the ministry.

Why the government blocks URLs: The government explained that it issues these orders under section 69A of the IT Act, 2000. It laid down the following as reasons owing to which it can block URLs:

  • Information impacting sovereignty and integrity of India
  • Defence of India
  • Security of the State
  • Friendly relations with foreign states
  • Public order
  • Preventing incitement

It is difficult to imagine a media player to be in violation of any of the aforementioned factors.

Will we ever know why these websites are blocked? The Delhi High Court recently ordered MeitY to provide the blocking order for a website and a hearing to Tanul Thakur— a film critic.

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  • It is the first time a censorship order will be disclosed and a hearing given to the party which has been censored.
  • The order may provide insight into how the system of censorship is run by the ministry, that’s largely been opaque.

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Written By

I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

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

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