Habitual of circumventing around any bans or blocks by the government or their Internet service provider, internet users in India, especially users of Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio, are raising serious concerns over net neutrality as the network operator is reported to be blocking proxy sites. A thread was started by the users last week to report the same on Twitter.
Known for being handy when it comes to avoiding the geographical location, the proxy sites bypass the Internet restrictions and some also allow users to download virtual private network software, the use of which can hide a user’s IP address even more effectively. Hide.me, VPNbook, Hidester, Kproxy, Proxysite, Proxy.toolur and Megaproxy are some of the proxy sites reported to be currently blocked on Jio but not on other networks including Vodafone, Airtel, Spectranet and ACT.
Alpha-Grizzly, a user who started the Reddit thread wrote, “This is outrageous. They have blocked hide.me, vpnbook.com and whoer.net/webproxy. Sometimes using https solves the issue. But my question is what’s next to be banned? They have already banned porn along with normal websites like behance.net and collegehumor.com. This is moral policing.” Not just selective websites are reported to be blocked but also torrent indexing websites and multihost platforms according to some Reddit users replying to the thread.
The ISP shows the message, “You are not authorized to access this web page as per the DOT compliance” to users visiting the blocked proxy websites.
Seeing some people post about the topic, the New Delhi-based digital rights organisation, Internet Freedom Foundation, had asked Twitter users in mid-December to write in if their ISPs seemed to be blocking VPN sites.
As per the Indian law, proxy sites and VPNs are not illegal and Apar Gupta, Executive Director of Internet Freedom Foundation, told Quartz, “The fact that proxy sites are inaccessible on Jio and not other networks might indicate that Jio is choosing to restrict access to them independent of any government order but a general lack of transparency around website blocking means it is difficult to be sure why something might be restricted.”