Truth about why the Wayback Machine or Internet Archive was blocked in India

Few things get people worked up over the Internet as quickly as the word “ban”. In a sensational report, India Today, said that the government probably wants to obfuscate information by blocking Wayback Machine which is hosted at archive.org.

“With the Wayback Machine blocked, Indians will find it difficult to catch liars on the Internet. It may even hit India’s attempt to root out corruption, doublespeak and is likely to make a number of government bodies less accountable to citizens.” India Today claimed.

Pretty soon, Internet freedom warriors were at it, blaming the government of India and called it ‘inexplicable instance of censorship’. Everyone was quick to blame the Government of India for the ban. “Journalist” Mihir Sharma, known for spreading propaganda, even hinted that perhaps orders are carried out on Prime Minister Modi’s insistence:

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Known Modi haters and trolls tried to spread this news. One such guy, a person named Sanjay Hegde who is apparently a lawyer, re-tweeted the above. You’d expect better from a lawyer considering the truth is far from what these reports say.

What these reports fail to mention is that archive.org is not blocked on orders of Government of India, but Madras High Court. As it turns out, Prakash Jha Productions and Red Chillies Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. approached the court of Justice Anita Sumanth in an attempt to stop pirated copies of their films Lipstick Under My Burkha and Jab Harry Met Sejal from being viewed online. As per the order, many as 2,650 websites have been blocked as per the Madras High Court order.

Medianama did clarify in a follow up article that archive.org is blocked on behest of Madras High Court after complaint by Bollywood studios, but others have not bothered to. Why let facts come in way of a great outrage material?

By the way, not all ISPs had blocked the archive.org and it is available for many users in India. It is however bizarre that the court included it in the list of websites aiding piracy.

Maybe the confusion was due to the low awareness of the petitioners (film production houses). Archive.org archives media files too, but they are allowed only through proper channels. So if a movie is leaked by uploading its media files somewhere, archive.org will not preserve the media file without taking into consideration the copyright issues.

Essentially, the whole controversy is similar to the porn block order by Supreme Court two years ago, where petitioners had prepared a list of over 800 websites to be blocked and got them blocked.

You can read the Madras High Court order here (hosted at Medianama website):

  1. Jab Harry Met Sejal [PDF]
  2. Lipstick Under My Burkha [PDF]

And for India Today’s kind information, archive.org is also very helpful in catching media lies i.e. lies spread by your community.

We have seen innumerable times how media publishes reports with half-truths or plain lies and later silently changes a few things in their report, once the propaganda has traveled far and wide. It happened just a day back when Indian Express silently added a word “Chinese” to their headline, after being bashed by alert Twitter users. Archive.org is helpful in catching such lies.


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