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Teen Evades Kashmir’s Social Media Ban, Launches FB Rival KashBook

KashBook works without a VPN, which makes it accessible to Kashmiris after Facebook has been blocked.

Updated
India
3 min read
Teen Evades Kashmir’s Social Media Ban, Launches FB Rival KashBook

After the social media ban was announced by the Kashmir government on 26 April, a 16-year-old entrepreneur rose to the challenge to connect Kashmiris by launching his own social media network – “KashBook”.

Taking a cue from Kashmiriyat and Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook model, the website aims at connecting people in the Valley at a time when the government is restricting the internet in the state which serves as “a medium to spread anti-social messages”.

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Zeyan Shafiq from Kashmir’s Anantnag district had finished his 10 grade exams a few months ago and had been interested in coding since he became a teenager. The young entrepreneur told The Quint that he wants to help Kashmir connect in a time of a social media blackout.

Shafiq started the website along with his friend Uzair Jan from Srinagar.

KashBook was founded in 2013. But due to no popularity and some personal issues, we had to stop it! Uzair and I recently got an email from a user who had been using KashBook still and we were shocked.

While not being used extensively since its inception, the website is now becoming integral to Kashmir’s communication.

The boys quickly got back to work after the email.

When we heard rumours of social media getting banned in Kashmir, we restarted the work on our project, and the result is here.
(Photo Courtesy: Google Play Store)

The duo, “worked for 7 days straight” and they “didn’t sleep, but only worked at night”.

The website now has a an Android app and the duo are working an app for iOS.

(Photo Courtesy: Google Play Store)
In just three days, we have gotten over 2,500 users on the site!

The Website and Its Content

The hard work the boys have put in is making KashBook outperform Facebook in the state.

Our site doesn’t usually get down but on Monday it got down due to too much traffic. So, we had to upgrade our servers and the issue is resolved now.

Given that social media was blocked in the state for a month owing to “anti-national material getting shared and causing turmoil in the Valley”, Shafiq answered the kind of content people are sharing on the website.

Our team monitors the content posted on the site and if found to be anti-national, it will be removed and the user will be given a warning.

How have they managed to keep KashBook up when other sites are not being allowed to function in the state?

Well, a special feature of the site is it works without a VPN and people can easily access it. So this way, all Kashmiris can be connected to each other.
Zeyan Shafiq to Catch News

Each time their server gets blacklisted, they hop on online, change the servers allowing people to network seamlessly again. It’s something which Facebook hasn’t been doing, leaving it inaccessible to Kashmiris. It hardly takes 5-10 minutes for the site to bounce back up.

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Not Stopping Anytime Soon

Shafiq is not worried about the site’s fate, once the social media ban ends.

I’m worried because I don’t want it to get banned, but even if it gets banned, I’ll change the server and people will be able to access it.

The two are also vehemently opposed to the ban, which made them want to give people a voice that the government was taking away from them.

We are against it. In fact, everyone is against it because by blocking social media they (the government) want us to get disconnected from the world. They can do whatever they wish to us because no one will be able to see or hear!

The two are hard at work to make sure the website stays up and running and are even welcoming people from outside the Valley to help them in their endeavour of growing and keeping KashBook functioning.

In a masterstroke, Shafiq and Jan tackled the ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make In India’ concepts of the government when it chose to cripple the digital backbone of the state.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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