Department of Telecommunication (DoT) has directed Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block 39 websites that allow users to share pornographic content, reports Times of India. 

The report also states that most of these websites are web forums, where Internet users share images and URLs to download pornographic files and are hosted outside India with operation under the 18 USC 2257 rule enforced by the US. No specific reason has been mentioned for the blocking of these websites. It is also not clear which are the 39 websites that are being blocked.

Speaking to the publication, Rajesh Chharia, president of Internet Service Providers Association of India said that the government should directly ask the websites to remove the content if they are Indian sites. If they are outside India, they need to be blocked at the international cable landing stations instead of involving 150 ISPs.

IT Rules 2011’s inclusion of porn: Although no law or reason for the block of these websites have been mentioned, Section 2(b) of IT Rules 2011 includes porn:

is grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever;

Apart from this, Section 67 of the IT Act imposes imprisonment on anyone who transmits or publishes obscene content in electronic form. Since the IT Act includes transmission, ISPs will be forced to co-operate with the government on this matter although adult pornography is not technically illegal in India. However, the government has been contemplating the ban of pornography after the gang rape of a girl and the rape of a five year old girl in Delhi.

Other website blocks: In the last ten days, a number of other websites including image hosting sites  imagebam.com and imgbox.com, foreign blog dealing with politics lookingglass.blog.co.uk, filesharing sites Uploaded.netul.to, and image hosting site stooorage.com have been blocked without any explanation or reason for blocking these websites. It is not clear if these websites have been blocked by the DoT or the ISPs.

In April 2013, Care.org, the website of the non-profit organization fighting global poverty, had been blocked in India on at least two ISPs. Zedge had also been blocked in the same month.

We feel that there should be more transparency in the process by means of a court order issued on the block with all the parties involved in the block being informed. In the case of pornographic websites, we believe the onus cannot be on the ISP to block these websites. Besides, it would also be a difficult task for the government to keep all pornographic content off the Internet because of the sheer size of it.

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