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Cisco Denies Media Reports That It Is Building Firewall to Restrict Internet Access in Kashmir

Cisco has refuted the media reports claiming that it is helping the Jammu and Kashmir administration build a firewall to block social media access in the Valley. Recent media reports claimed that the San Jose, California-based company was in a collaboration with the administration to prevent Internet users in Kashmir from accessing blacklisted websites and social media portals through fixed-line connections. The Indian government partially restored Internet access in Kashmir in January — nearly six months after completely restricting it through fixed-line broadband connections and mobile devices. The restoration was limited to 2G connectivity in the region, while 3G, 4G, and fixed-line broadband connections for the general public are still inactive.

A Cisco spokesperson told Gadgets 360 that the company supports free expression and open communication on the Internet and was against censorship.

“Cisco denies reports from India regarding Cisco’s involvement in restricting access to social media websites,” the spokesperson said in a prepared statement emailed to Gadgets 360. “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 customise our products in any way to enable censorship.”

Citing a senior government official, news site The Print on Tuesday reported that Cisco met with Jammu and Kashmir administration to build the firewall for restricting fixed-line Internet users in the region from accessing social media portals. The official told the site that the administration was currently testing the “temporary stopgap arrangement” that would be followed by purchasing of the firewall.

The Indian government imposed a complete ban on Internet access in Kashmir just before nullifying Article 370 of the constitution in August last year. It faced criticism from various bodies even the Supreme Court in January called the Internet shutdown unwarranted. After this, the government restored 2G mobile Internet services in the region, for only whitelisted sites.

An official notification released last month showed that Internet restrictions will remain operative in the region at least until today as the administration considered that virtual private networks (VPNs) “are being misused by anti-national elements”. The Kashmir Police also reportedly filed a first information report (FIR) against the people accessing social media by employing proxy servers and VPNs in the region.

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