Months after mysterious ban, VLC player becomes available in India
Nine months ago, the Indian government mysteriously placed a ban on downloading popular media player VLC. Now, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has lifted the ban on VideoLan's official website. VideoLan had sent a legal notice to the ministry seeking an explanation about the ban. You can now download VLC by visiting the official website.
Why does this story matter?
The ban on downloading VLC has been a head-scratching one. Neither the company knew why it was banned, nor the authorities said anything about it. Indian government has been blocking several apps that allegedly posed a threat to national security. It is a summary process, meaning the companies may not get a chance to defend themselves This reversal showcases the holes in that procedure.
No one knows why the government banned VLC
The ban on downloading VLC has been in existence since February 13 this year. However, the band didn't come to anyone's notice until the Internet Freedom Foundation of India (IFF) highlighted the news. The Indian government is yet to say why it banned the popular media player. IFF's attempt to get an answer about the same by filing an RTI application was in vain.
Chinese hacker group Cicada reportedly exploited VLC to attack victims
The download ban on VLC is believed to be a result of a security warning. In April, security firm Symantec reported that Cicada, a Chinese hacker group, was exploiting VLC to attack computers. Cicada is known for cyber attacks in several countries including India, the US, Canada, Israel, and Hong Kong, among others. However, this hasn't been confirmed yet.
VideoLan threatened the government with legal proceedings
In October, VideoLan and IFF sought answers surrounding the ban through legal means. The government never made the blocking order public. The company sent a legal notice seeking a copy of the order, the reason why it was banned, and a virtual hearing to defend itself. It also threatened the government with legal proceedings if it failed to give proper reasoning.
The government reversed the ban after the legal notice
It seems that the legal notice worked and that VideoLan was able to prove its innocence. The order may have been a mistake, which the government realized only now, but that leads to a different set of questions about the procedural aspects of such bans. Either way, Indians can now access the website, which earlier showed a 404 error, and download the media player.