After blocking social media platforms for over seven months in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the administration has finally decided to lift the ban. The decision has been taken by J&K’s principal secretary Shaleen Kabra.
Moreover, the J&K administration has also restored internet access through broadband as well. However, the authorities will first verify the broadband connection before allowing the owners to use internet services.
According to a report by the Hindu, the lifting of social media ban will run as an experiment until March 17, 2020. After this date, the authorities will go through the content shared on social media platforms to take a final call on the complete restoration of social media services in J&K.
Although internet users in J&K can now connect with their friends and families on social media, the authorities have limited the internet connection to 2G only. Moreover, only those using postpaid connections can currently access social media sites. Users with a prepaid connection have to undergo a verification process to access social media platforms.
While the government has officially announced the restoration of social media platforms now, users in J&K were already using virtual private networks (VPNs) and other proxy servers to access blocked content such as Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.
However, J&K Police registered cases against hundreds of VPN users. J&K police cyber division official Tahir Ashraf had said that the authority has identified and is probing suspected users who misused social media to promote unlawful activities.
After the August 2019 abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, which provided a special status to J&K, the authorities had blocked internet access in the region. On January 25, the government had lifted the internet ban but allowed users to access around 150 whitelisted sites. The Jammu and Kashmir internet shutdown is said to be the longest in the world with over 174 days (till January 25, 2020) of the blockade. The ban on internet in J&K has badly marred the business and economy of the region, with many businesses and startups having to shut shop or move out of the region.
Even though whitelisted sites have been allowed for some time, analysts found that most whitelisted websites were practically unusable. An analysis on 153 websites which were marked as whitelisted showed that only 80 websites were working as intended.