While India’s control over the internet isn’t nearly as extreme as places like China, the country has, on previous occasions, denied access to certain websites, including GitHub, Vimeo, and Wordpress. But the government’s recent blocking of The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine came as a surprise, and it still hasn’t explained why it took the decision.
MediaNama reports that the block appeared suddenly and without any warning. Not everyone in the country has lost access, but users with major ISPs such as Airtel and MTNL are being met with the following the message when visiting the site: “Your requested URL has been blocked as per the directions received from the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India. Please contact administrator for more information.”
The move has sparked outrage, with many citizens accusing the government of inexplicable censorship. India Today called the block “nothing but an attempt to obfuscate information.”
The Wayback Machine has been capturing screenshots of websites for the past two decades, and has over 302 billion web pages saved in its archives. It's particularly useful for preserving statements from politicians and authority figures, especially when the original reports are deleted.
Chris Butler, Office Manager at the Internet Archive, said the organization tried to contact the Indian Department of Telecom (DoT) and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity), but received no response. "Obviously, we are disappointed and concerned by this situation and are very eager to understand why it's happening and see full access restored," he added.
Speaking to the BBC, Shambhu Choudhary, the director of the Indian government's Press Information Bureau, said: "Courts and security agencies do block certain websites and the reasons are sometimes not disclosed. These are based on directives from security agencies"
Back in 2014, India blocked 32 popular sites, including Daily Motion and the Internet Archive. It claimed they were being used for Jihadi propaganda.