India drops ban on online porn after backlash

india mapIndia has reversed a controversial order banning hundreds of porn websites, a government official said Wednesday, after accusations of heavy-handed censorship in the world’s largest democracy.

On Saturday, telecommunication authorities had directed Internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 websites on “morality and decency” grounds and to curb child pornography, the first major crackdown on online pornography in the country.

But the ban drew criticism and public ridicule, forcing the government to cancel the order late Tuesday and direct the ISPs to allow access to the banned websites, except those containing child porn.

“ISPs are free to allow access to the previously banned websites, which do not have child pornographic content,” N. N. Kaul, spokesman for the government’s telecoms department, told AFP.

Although the government has cancelled the order, some service providers said they would not lift the block until they have more clarity as the new order puts the onus on them to prevent access to child pornography.

“This is a very vague order. There is no clarity and until we get clear answers, we will keep the websites blocked,” Rajesh Chharia, head of the Internet Service Providers Association of India, told AFP.

Authorities had argued the ban was necessary after India’s supreme court voiced concern last month about the government’s failure to block access to child pornography on the Internet.

Next week the top court is again scheduled to hear the petition to ban online porn outright. Judges observed during a hearing last month on the petition that adults had the right to access adult sites in private.

According to the adult site Pornhub, India was its fourth largest source of traffic behind the United States, Britain and Canada in 2014.

Child pornography is illegal in India, as is publishing, hosting and transmitting it, but watching porn in private is legal.

Rakshit Tandon, a consultant on Internet technology and cyber crime, said holding ISPs responsible for checking child porn was unrealistic.

“Crawling millions of web pages manually and blocking child porn is impractical. There’s no thinking behind the decision,” Tandon told AFP, adding that most of the websites are based outside Indian borders.

India has been accused of heavy-handed online censorship in the past, including in 2012 when it ordered 300 webpages, images and links on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter blocked.

It said they were being used to spread rumours that were fuelling ethnic tensions.

In March, a government-appointed board of censors blocked the release of the erotic film “Fifty Shades of Grey” in cinemas, despite being shown a toned-down version, sparking claims of moral policing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was embroiled in a controversy the same month for getting a court order banning the broadcast of a BBC documentary on the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in 2012 on grounds it risked fuelling public anger.



No Comments yet

Related