Internet Gag

SRINAGAR — Cisco, an American networking company, has denied reports that it is working with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to build software to prevent Kashmiris from accessing social media websites in the region.

Internet access in Kashmir has been restricted since August 5, 2019 after the Central government revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and downgraded it into a Union Territory.

“Cisco denies reports from India regarding Cisco involvement in restricting access to social media websites,” a company spokesperson told media outlets.

He said, “Cisco strongly supports free expression and open communication on the Internet, and our policies and practices are well-established in this area. We build our products to comply with global standards and sell our products globally. We do not customize our products in any way to enable censorship.”

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Several media outlets, including a national news agency, claimed on Tuesday that Cisco was working with the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to prevent internet users there from accessing social media websites through wired broadband.

The report said Cisco would help authorities in the region “build a firewall” and that its employees were currently in Kashmir to “build a stopgap arrangement.” It also said local authorities were in the process of buying “firewall technologies” from Cisco to enforce internet restrictions.

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After nearly six months of shutting down the internet entirely, the government allowed people in the region partial access to a few hundred government-approved websites at severely throttled speeds. Social media platforms, however, continue to remain blocked.

As a workaround, Kashmiris have been using VPNs, software that lets you mask your location on the internet to bypass local restrictions.

Last month, authorities in Kashmir started filing complaints against people using such software under a law that lets them punish offenders with up to seven years in jail.

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