India blocks Wayback Machine, reportedly on HC order

10 August 2017

Several Indian Internet service providers and telecom operators have blocked Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, which is one of the world's oldest web history archive site, according to reports that first emerged on Tuesday.

Several users have complained on Twitter that they are getting a note stating that the site has been blocked "as per the directions received by the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India".

The Indian media seemed clueless about the reasons for the DoT directive, but according to a BBC report, it follows a Madras High Court order that listed it among 2,650 websites, including file-sharing ones, that it wanted blocked, the BBC reported on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Internet Archive told NDTV Gadgets 360 that the government of India has not contacted them regarding this apparent blocking. "We have no information about why a block would have been implemented ... multiple attempts to contact the DoT and MeitY (the agency that ultimately ended up responding to us regarding a previous block) have gone unanswered thus far," the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

"Obviously, we are disappointed and concerned by this situation and are very eager to understand why it's happening and see full access restored to," the spokeperson added.

The BBC said the court had been petitioned by the makers of the movies Lipstick Under my Burkha and Jab Harry met Sejal, two recent Bollywood releases, who wanted the court to restrict access to websites that were allegedly hosting pirated copies of the films.

The fact that the Internet Archive had been blocked first came to light on Tuesday. By Wednesday, speculation was rife that the government had restricted access to it.

The most popular aspect of the archive is the Wayback Machine, which allows users to see older versions of the same website. It is popular with fact checkers and researchers.

Started by non-profit organisation Internet Archive in 2001, Wayback Machine has been archiving the web by taking snapshots at intermittent periods for over 20 years, thereby serving as a public record of the web's evolution. It also enables users to see archived versions of web pages across various time periods.

As of October 2016, the site has saved over 510 billion time-stamped web objects that include 273 billion webpages from over 361 million websites.

This isn't the first time users in India have been restricted from accessing the Internet Archive, Mint reports. In late 2014, the government blocked access to it, and several other websites, on fears they were hosting anti-India propaganda by the ISIS. Access was restored in early 2015.

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