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India cracks down on use of VPNs in Kashmir

By Hazel Davis

Residents have been using virtual private networks to get around social media ban

Kashmiri authorities are cracking down on virtual private network (VPN) apps.

Police in the Indian-controlled region have seized “a lot of incriminating material” under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), India’s main counter-terrorism law. Those found guilty could be jailed for up to seven years.

Mobile data speeds remain capped at 2G speeds. The ban was put in place to maintain calm in the region.

People started using VPNs to get around the country’s social media ban. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and other social media sites have been blocked, along with selected news outlets.

The police have claimed that many VPN users are trying to stir trouble in the region by disseminating anti-India propaganda.

VPNs enable users to route the data connection of a smartphone or a laptop through a private server instead of the local ISP (internet service provider) network, allowing them access to locally blocked sites.

The authorities are now forcing local mobile providers to install firewalls to try and block access to as many VPNs as possible.

According to a report from internet advocacy group Access Now, internet shutdowns are highest in India. In 2018 India accounted for 67 per cent of worldwide bans.

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