India bans social media sites to quell unrest in Kashmir
India’s government has banned 22 social media sites in an effort to calm tensions in parts of the disputed region of Kashmir after viral videos depicting the alleged abuse of Kashmiris by Indian forces fueled protests. But the sites remained online Thursday morning as the local telecom company struggled to block them.
The government said Wednesday that the ban, to be in effect for one month, was necessary for public safety. “It’s being felt that continued misuse of social networking sites and instant messaging services is likely to be detrimental to the interests of peace and tranquility in the state,” the public order reads.
Pranesh Prakash, policy director for the Indian advocacy group the Center for Internet and Society, called the ban a “blow to freedom of speech” and “legally unprecedented in India.”
An official with Kashmir’s state-owned telecom company, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd., said engineers were still working on shutting down the 22 sites, including Facebook and Twitter, but so far had been unable to do so without freezing the internet across the Himalayan region. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to give technical details of the effort to the media.
Meanwhile, 3G and 4G cellphone service has been suspended for more than a week, but slower 2G service was still running.