security

WeTransfer site, blocked over ‘national security’, still accessible on Airtel, ACT Fibernet – ThePrint


WeTransfer website screenshot taken by ThePrint Sunday afternoon on an Airtel broadband connection
WeTransfer website screenshot taken by ThePrint Sunday afternoon on an Airtel broadband connection


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New Delhi: The Government of India has blocked Dutch file-sharing site WeTransfer, citing national security and public interest, but the site continues to be accessible on Airtel and ACT Fibernet.

In an order dated 18 May, the Department of Telecom asked internet service licensees (providers) to “immediately block access” to three website links belonging to WeTransfer — two specific links to files uploaded to WeTransfer and the third to block the entire site. If compliance is not immediate, the order said, the internet service providers in question would invite action stipulated under the licence agreement signed with the government.

The order has been issued under Licence Condition No. 7.12 of Chapter IX of the licence agreement, which all telecom and internet service providers must agree to.

The section states: “In the interest of national security or public interest, the licensee shall block internet sites/uniform resource locators (URLs)/uniform resource identifiers (URIs) and/or individual subscribers, as identified and directed by the licensor from time to time.”

WeTransfer acknowledged the block, saying: “…WeTransfer seems to be blocked and unavailable in India. We are working hard to understand the reasoning behind this block, as well as how to get it reverted as soon as possible.”

WeTransfer was founded in 2009 in Amsterdam and its main service site for file transferring has 50 million users a month. WeTransfer can be used to send files up to 2GB in size without charge, while a paid version of the service allows sending even larger files.


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The case of Airtel and ACT Fibernet

ThePrint attempted to access WeTransfer.com via a number of different internet service providers. On a Vodafone mobile internet connection, the site did not load and a “this site can’t be reached” message appeared. But it loaded on Airtel broadband and mobile connections in south Delhi Sunday afternoon, while an ACT Fibernet user also reported having been able to access it.

Asked why this was occurring, ACT Fibernet stated it did not wish to comment on the matter.

Airtel was sent an emailed questionnaire, to which a response is awaited. However, an industry source said the telecom giant is complying with the order, though there may be technical challenges due to which the block is being implemented in phases.

The source added that usually, in the compliance reports that they send to the government, telecom companies state that compliance is being done on a “best effort basis”, and that the government also understands there are technical challenges.

However, a Reliance Jio source, while confirming that the order had been received and complied with, added that providers have no option but to follow the order under the licence agreement.

ThePrint also tried to access WeTransfer using a virtual private network (VPN) service, and it was accessible.

ThePrint reached Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash through a text message Saturday for a comment, but he did not respond. He answered a call Saturday evening, asking ThePrint to call him Sunday morning. But calls to his phone went unanswered Sunday morning.


Also read: Google gets antitrust notice over ‘unfairly’ promoting Google Pay over other apps in India


 

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