Shooting The Messenger: India Blocks WeTransfer File-Sharing Site

As most Indians continue working from home, Department of Telecom cites national security, public interest for ban.

Updated30 May 2020, 11:54 AM IST
Tech and Auto
3 min read

The Department of Telecommunications has banned popular file-sharing site WeTransfer.com citing public interest and national security, according to a report in The Mumbai Mirror. WeTransfer is a web-based file-transfer site, which makes it convenient to upload files up to 2GB in size and share it for free with others over the internet. A premium version of the service allows one to share larger file sizes.

According to the news report, on 18 May, the telecom department issued a notice to internet service providers (ISPs) across India to ban two specific URLs (links) on WeTransfer and a third notice banning the entire site. It isn't known what data was contained in the two links that were to be banned, but banning the entire site is like shooting the messenger.

While most ISPs have enforced the ban, we could still access the site on an Airtel connection.

WeTransfer is just the messenger service here. It doesn't have access to the data/files that are sent through the system.

For instance, if one were to send adult photographs in a letter using the regular postal system to a friend, would you ban the entire India Post system? Or if one accessed a porn site on the internet, would you ban the internet?

How WeTransfer Works

WeTransfer offers a simple interface to share files up to 2GB for free.
WeTransfer offers a simple interface to share files up to 2GB for free.
Photo: WeTransfer

Logging on to WeTransfer.com provides an easy way to share files up to 2GB for free (and larger sizes in the premium version). One just attaches the file, enters their own email address, types in the recipient's email address with an optional message and sends the file. The recipient, located anywhere in the world, gets an email with a link from which the file can be downloaded. It's simple and efficient and that's what made the service wildly popular.

During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, the service has hugely benefited organisations whose employees were working from home, allowing them to easily share large files with each other. Email attachments typically limit file size to a few MB, while accessing secure FTP (file-transfer protocol) on a company's server is tedious.

However, the WeTransfer service can be misused as well. One can send porn clips or sensitive content through this site, as the site cannot access the files or data being shared. That's the reason being cited by the telecom department for the ban.

Are There Altneratives?

There are alternate sites for file sharing as well as a way in which WeTransfer itself can be used.

To access WeTransfer, one can do it through a VPN (virtual private network) service. There are many VPN software and apps available for free on the Internet. 

Just download and run the VPN, change your virtual location to any place outside of India and continue to use the service.

If you don't want to use WeTransfer or find the VPN route too complicated, you could also use file-sharing services of cloud drives such as Google Drive and DropBox. It's not as smooth an experience as WeTransfer, but it works just as efficiently.

On the Android Play Store, there are apps such FileMail that work similarly to WeTransfer.

The Netherlands-based platform has responded to this move by the DOT.

WeTransfer seems to be  blocked and unavailable in India. We are working hard to understand the reasoning behind this block, as well as how to get it reverted as soon as possible. We know that a lot of you rely on us to send and receive transfers that are important to you, nowadays more than ever, so it really does break our hearts to see that so many of you can’t use WeTransfer at the moment.
WeTransfer

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Published: 30 May 2020, 06:42 AM IST
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