Government of India orders blocking of 857 pornographic websites

In a decision which is likely to spark controversy, telecom operators and Internet service providers (ISPs) have been reportedly asked by the government of India to block 857 pornographic websites.

According to a leading daily, the government sources however have denied that there has been any crackdown. The sources maintain that this denial of access has been done in insistence of Department of Telecom. But the ban is temporary and is a step towards working out a regulatory mechanism, maintain government sources. The ban comes on the wake of SC’s observation last month regarding failure of Home Ministry to block websites featuring child pornography.

From Friday night, several adult websites were found to be blocked though in some service providers like Airtel it was streaming as usual. Quoting sources, Legally India said that “There is a list of 857 URLs.”

Sources in the government also told a leading daily that the directive was necessitated by the Supreme Court’s observations and claimed that the idea was not to black out what people did in their homes, but more in the line that such websites shouldn’t be accessed in public places.

Telecom operators however, said that blocking of all sites is not possible as each site will have to be blocked one by one and it will take few days.

The Supreme Court on last month declined to pass an interim order block pornography websites in India, saying “how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room” in response to a public interest litigation (PIL).

CJI HL Dattu observed that banning the watching of porn at home would be “a violation of article 21”.

Earlier, government had told the Supreme Court that the blocking all websites with pornographic content in the country is not possible and it would cause more harm as literary content containing such words would also not be available for public on Internet.

The apex court had on November 18 issued notice to the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) seeking its response as to how to block websites with pornographic content in the country, particularly those featuring child pornography. Meanwhile, filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma, in a series of tweets, has criticised the ban of porn websites in India.

Calling the move “regressive”, Varma said banning porn sites is not a solution against sexual crimes. “History proved it multiple times that if anytime anything is banned it will just gather strength in the underground. “Any deprivation of personal liberty of an individual by a government amounts to a regression of social progress of that country. It’s a proven fact by international surveys that instead of fuelling sexual crimes porn actually provides safer outlet for sexual repression,” he tweeted.