The Department of Telecom doesn’t like techies. Or at least, that’s what it seems like after reports that the government has issued a circular asking Internet Service Providers to block a number of websites, from Github to Vimeo, that are widely used by the techie community.

The news appeared to have first been broken by Pastebin, a website that stores snippets of plain text, which is commonly used by coders to share snippets of code. Pastebin tweeted that it had been blocked in India, although this appeared to only be true if the site is accessed from certain ISPs.

The Centre of Internet and Society’s policy director Pranesh Prakash then tweeted a circular that purportedly has been issued to all ISPs asking them to block 32 different URLs, including that of Pastebin. The Department of Telecom’s website doesn’t carry the notification, which was reportedly issued on December 17, and the Times of India mentioned that it was unable to verify the details. Yet the websites remained down for those attempting to access them from ISPs like Vodafone and BSNL.

According to Arvind Gupta, the head of the Bharatiya Janata Party's national IT cell, these sites were taken down for threatening national security by having content connected to the Islamic State.


The list, if it is accurate, covers websites like Github, a web repository for software code, Weebly, a website host, and Daily Motion, a video hosting service. It includes broad URLs, like, which hosts millions of books that are out of copyright, to a specific pastebin tool called Phorkie.

The order appears to have been issued under section 69A of the Information Technology Act, which allows the government to block any website without giving the creator a chance to defend the material. This section is among those that are currently being challenged in the Supreme Court for taking a sledgehammer to the idea of free speech on the internet.

Initial speculation suggested that the blocks might have been the result of an alleged copyright violation that has been taken to court. The court could then have easily ordered, under current law, that the sites need to come down.

The Indian government and judiciary has a sketchy relationship with censorship online, with the laws particularly under the IT Act making it all too easy for content to be blocked without explanation. This issue drew the ire of many online under the previous administration, with some even likening it to the Emergency, with the hashtag #GOIBlocks.

While it is unclear whether this action was prompted by a court or by complaints received by the DOT, it's clear that the problem of arbitrary net censorship has not gone away.