Srinagar: The ban on social media has prompted Kashmiri netizens to explore alternatives for instant messaging services and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to find another way to Facebook and Twitter.
Though the government banned 22 social media networks on April 25, the shutting down is taking time due to technical issues faced by internet service providers. Many people are still able to access these networks through broadband internet and state-owned BSNL. Those who are unable to access social networks are finding alternative means to access them.
When Reliance Jio introduced 4G services in Kashmir, Adil Bhat of Gulshan Nagar sold his old cellphone to buy a new 4G-enabled one. “I would usually wait for the restoration of cellular data services but I never installed a broadband at my home,” Bhat said. “But when I heard that social media networks have been banned, I installed a VPN using a friend’s broadband to make sure that I do not miss on social networking sites.”
A VPN or a virtual private network helps to connect through a secure network over a public network or private network. A VPN secures a user connection through encryption and security protocols and protects the identity of the connection. VPN allows users to remain secure online and also enables them to access content or websites that are otherwise blocked.
According to Faheem Tariq, an SEO analyst with a Kashmir-based IT firm, VPN allows users to bypass the computer or mobile’s IP address. “Even if a VPN is blocked, there are various other VPNs, browsers and browser plug-ins that can help users access from a remote network the blocked social media networks,” he said.
Asif, a resident of Chanapora and a school teacher by profession, is awaiting the installation of broadband service at his home due to feasibility issues. “I am surfing the internet these days from a friend’s network. I am also learning about secure applications and alternatives to defy the ban,” he said.
Asif said his curiosity to learn about the internet and alternative social platforms comes from the government-ordered ban. “I am not addicted to social media but the recent ban has provoked my imagination to know more about the virtual world,” he said.
While it took the authorities nearly four days to completely shut the social networks, many netizens had already secured alternative access and informed others of the same.