In a recent development, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has announced that the government is lifting ban from porn websites except those serving child porn.
“A new notification will be issued shortly. The ban will be partially withdrawn. Sites that do not promote child porn will be unbanned,” he said.
The government of India had asked internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 porn websites. The worst part of this ban was the fact that entertainment sites like 9GAG and College Humor were also banned, however according to the latest update the ban on non-pornographic sites has been revoked.
Govt reviews order blocking 857 websites; lifts ban from websites which do not contain pornographic material.
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) August 4, 2015
This ban was in response to a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court filed in 2013 seeking a complete ban on all porn websites filed by advocate Kamlesh Vaswani in 2013. In his petition, Vaswani wrote, “Pornography creates stereotypes representation of women (sic) and becomes the basis behind unequal treatment of women in society.”
The PIL was heard by a Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir in April 2013. The petition challenged effectiveness of the Information Technology Act of 2000 in dealing with pornography. Section 67 of the law criminalises “publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form” but not accessing it.
The ban was imposed under the rather archaic “Rule 12”of the “IT Act” that gives the government the right to force ISPs to block certain sites. Given that the block is “necessary or expedient so to do in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above.”
In August 2014, the government during a hearing admitted that it is difficult to block porn sites because there were around 40 million websites and if one gets blocked another is launched.
According to IT experts, banning or blocking websites in not all a successful experiment because technically it is impossible to block the servers.
Banning just a few hundreds of websites doesn’t makes sense, as there thousands of sites on the internet which one can access easily even if few are banned. Most importantly, the kind of block Indian government puts, can be easily bypassed with a free web-based proxy such as www.hide.me. Even there are VPNs, which are virtual and secure tunnels which can be easily accessed by people to access these websites.
And also, banning just websites will not solve any issue as there are other ways which can be used to access porn such as downloading it by use of Bit-Torrent.
Interestingly, Golden Frog, a VPN provider has recently set up servers in India, using which Indian customers can have access to more than 700 servers in over 50+ locations across Asia, Europe, South & North America among others. It also allows one to get unlimited bandwidth and one can even switch between servers worldwide without restrictions.
That being said the entire idea of banning a content just because it is not suitable to a certain age group is not a wise decision, it is in fact a sign of overtly interfering in the personal level. We do agree that crime against Women have been increasing in the past but holding pornographic material responsible is an absolute folly. The problem with the ban is that it is just based on someone’s assumption that “Porn is destroying the youth” and is not based on any scientific studies and research.
The current Government is finding itself in a pool of muddle with issues like Net Neutrality, Section 66 and ban on Porn. The authorities need to spend some time and arrive at the root cause of the problems and try to tackle them methodologically.