imgur-blocked

The central government has told the Supreme Court that it will take steps to clamp down on Internet porn, especially sites which deal with child pornography, reports the Press Trust of India. Additional solicitor general Pinky Anand gave the assurances to the apex court after Chief Justice HL Dattu and Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy said the government failed to take action against such sites.

Earlier in April 2014, the Supreme Court had asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to submit an affidavit explaining if it could block pornographic content in India. The DoT in its reply had said that it was not possible to “take actions against these entities operating such servers under Indian laws” .

The Supreme Court had asked the DoT’s secretary to file his personal affidavit to clarify whether DoT or any other government department was competent to issue direction to the Internet service providers for calling off sites showing pornography.

The Court is hearing a public interest litigation which is seeking a ban on Internet porn and child pornography and argues that the “obscene” content available online led sex crimes against women and children. “The petitioner most respectfully submits that most of the offences committed against women/girls/children are fuelled by pornography. The worrying issue is the severity and gravity of the images are increasing. It is a matter of serious concern that pre-pubescent children are being raped,” the petition had said.

The issues with blocking Internet porn

The Supreme Court is right in its concerns about child pornography. But it needs to understand that a blanket clamp down on pornography will not lead fewer sexual crimes. The linking of pornography to rape is an easy way out. Sexual crimes are more about power and depravity.

That being said, the DoT has rightly pointed out that most porn websites are hosted on foreign servers and cannot be taken down by Indian laws. Blocking access to these websites also amounts to censorship and infringes on freedom of expression. Even if the websites are blocked, they can be accessed using VPN or other encryption.

Note that there are a lot of sites where people put up naked and semi naked pictures of themselves or other people (some with consent, some without). And let’s not get into Tumblr’s fascination with art pornography. With the proliferation of smartphones, it becomes increasingly difficult to block pornographic content and sexts.

But there’s a dark side to sharing private and intimate pictures and videos taken with consent. Many times they end up on revenge porn sites which can be used to harass, or even destroy someone’s life and/or reputation. Comedian John Oliver on his show Last Week Tonight explains the difficulties of removing content on revenge porn websites in this segment. It’s worth a look to understand the nuances better.