February 3, 2023

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India lifts VLC download ban • TechCrunch

India has lifted the download ban on VLC, more than nine months after it mysteriously blocked the official website of the popular media player software in the South Asian market. VideoLAN, the developer of the popular software, filed a legal notice last month requesting an explanation for the block arrangement from national IT and telecom ministries.

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

Indian telecom operators began blocking VideoLAN’s official website, which lists links to download VLC, in February this year, Jean-Baptiste Kempf, VideoLAN’s president and lead developer, said in a previous interview with TechCrunch. India is one of the biggest 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 ban in India. Faced with the suspension, the site immediately saw an 80% drop in traffic in the South Asian market, he told TechCrunch.

Last month, VideoLAN and the Internet Freedom Foundation used legal means to seek answers and redress related to the ban. India’s IT Ministry never made public the ban’s order, but all the country’s telecom operators have complied. In its legal notice last month, VideoLAN requested a copy of the ban order.

Indian telecom operators have never disclosed why they blocked the VideoLan website, but some have speculated that it could be due to a misreading of a security warning earlier this year.

Security firm Symantec reported in April this year that hacker group Cicada, which has ties to the Chinese government, exploited VLC media player and several other popular applications to gain remote access to victims’ computers. Kempf said he was never contacted by any government agency.

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

But by blocking the site, India was urging its citizens to visit “shady websites running a hacked version of VLC. With this ban, they are endangering their own citizens,” warned Kempf.