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India lifts VLC download ban • londonbusinessblog.com

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India has lifted the download ban on VLC more than nine months after it mysteriously blocked the official website of the popular media playback software in the South Asian market. VideoLAN, the developer of the popular software, filed a legal notice last month seeking explanations from the national ministries of IT and Telecom for the blockage.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT has lifted the ban on the website of the VLC media player, the New Delhi-based advocacy group Internet Freedom Foundation, which provided legal support to VideoLAN. VideoLAN has confirmed the order.

Indian telecom operators started blocking VideoLAN’s official website in February this year, which lists links to download VLC, VideoLAN president and lead developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf told londonbusinessblog.com in an earlier interview. India is one of the largest markets for VLC.

The vast majority of people rely on VLC’s official website to download the popular application.

“Most major ISPs [internet service providers] ban the site using various techniques,” Kempf said of the blocking in India. In light of the lockdown, the site immediately noted an 80% drop in traffic from the South Asian market, he told londonbusinessblog.com.

Last month, VideoLAN and the Internet Freedom Foundation used legal means to seek answers and redress over the ban. India’s IT ministry has never made the order of the ban public, but all telecom operators in the country have adhered to it. In its legal notice last month, VideoLAN asked for a copy of the blocking order.

Indian telecom operators have never disclosed why they were blocking the VideoLan website, but some speculated it could be because of a misinterpretation of a security warning from earlier this year.

Security firm Symantec reported in April this year that the hacker group Cicada, which has ties to the Chinese government, misused VLC Media Player and several other popular applications to gain remote access to the victim’s computers. Kempf said he was never approached by a government agency.

Downloaded more than 3.5 billion times worldwide, VLC is a local media player that does not require internet access or connection to any particular online service for the vast majority of its functions. A block on his website had no significant impact on VLC’s existing installation base.

But by blocking the website, India forced its citizens to go to “dark websites with a hacked version of VLC.” So with this ban they endanger their own citizens,” Kempf warned.

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