DoT not giving clarity on reasons for blocking WeTransfer: Digital rights group

NEW DELHI: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has declined to produce reasons for blocking popular file sharing website WeTransfer last month, on grounds of the matter being under investigation.

As per an order dated May 18, 2020, the DoT had directed all internet service providers to block three URLs of WeTransfer, reportedly done in the interests of, “national security and public order”.

In response to an RTI filed by digital rights advocacy group Internet India Foundation (IIF) on June 1, DoT said, “It is intimated that information sought by the applicant may impede the process of investigation and therefore the CPIO is not obliged to disclose the same under section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act 2005.”

WeTransfer is a popular file sharing service, based in the Netherlands, used for sharing large files. “It has even been as late as 2017 been used in press releases on the Press Information Bureau by the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Food Processing Industries,” IFF said in a blog.

IFF argued that the Order has not been pro-actively published and hence “there exists a large amount of confusion amongst the large base of WeTransfer users in India as the website is being inconsistently blocked across ISPs throughout India.”

Further, the order does not contain any stated reasons but directs that three URLs be blocked. “An absence of any reasoning makes the Order appear mechanical and lacking an application of mind,” IFF said.

The rights group, in a separate representation, has urged DoT to recall the order and initiate a fresh process under the Blocking Rules with proactive public disclosure and an opportunity for WeTransfer representatives to make their case in defence.

The group had earlier filed RTIs to seek reasons for blocking of Telegram and Porn websites in the past to which replies are awaited.


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