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Govt clamps down on porn sites in India; Accountability?

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Most of the popular porn domains have been banned in India, with most users receiving little more than a blank page on the blocked websites on certain ISPs. The issue was first spotted by reddit India users where they reported the blocks on several ISPs including ACT Broadband, You Broadband, Vodafone, BSNL and MTNL. Networks that websites are not yet blocked on include Airtel and Hathway. Reddit user the_kindly_one has created a list of banned and not-yet banned sites, here’s the list.

The block by the Government seems to be at the URL level. Any pings we made to these websites were replied to, however, the URLs over HTTP protocol seem to be blocked. Basically, if a connection to a known blacklisted URL is detected, the connection is closed. This, of course, means that the block is limited to certain websites that were listed by the government, rather than all porn websites. Not only do lesser known websites escape the filter, but so do those that are based on the HTTPS protocol.

Note that just last month the Central government told the Supreme Court that it would take steps to clamp down on Internet porn, especially sites which deal with child pornography. 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.

The issues with blocking Internet porn
As we have said time and again, such 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. There are also a lot of sites where people put up naked and semi naked pictures of themselves or other people (some with consent, some without) and with the proliferation of smartphones, it becomes increasingly difficult to block pornographic content and sexts.

The issue isn’t just about blocking porn on the Internet either. The Government has displayed little accountability with the ban, with no list of what’s been blocked and why. The Courts have been responsible for getting websites banned without accountability as well, by granting John Doe orders for blocking any site that allegedly pirate movies. These include John Doe orders for Bombay Velvet, Gangs of Wasseypur, Hunterrr, Bang Bang and ‘3’ among others, which resulted in legitimate websites like Dailymotion and Vimeo being blocked for a while.

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Image source: Flickr user Gerardo Diego Ontiveros

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