When it comes to websites that contain porn, India has been known to ban hundreds of them. Being the biggest democracy in the world, India has been accused of heavy-handed censorship.
It has now been confirmed that a very large amount of porn websites cannot be accessed in India by many internet service providers. Those who use: BSNL, ACT and MTNL ISPs have noticed that they are getting messages saying: “This website has been blocked because of the Competent Authority requirements”. They have also been getting blank pages. In the mean time, individuals using Tata Photon or Airtel have never experienced anything like this.
The government of India has not given any notice to ISP’s to prevent individuals from getting to eight hundred and fifty seven pornography websites.
Before they knew it, complaints were being made on social media networks all over India. Individuals were explaining what they were experiencing when accessing these websites. Some were being told that the website they were using had been blocked as they were told by the telecommunications department in India.
The government has been very unclear about the purpose of this. No official announcement was given. They did not even say how they were going to block these websites. ISP’s in India have noticed there have been a lot of pornography websites that have not been blocked at all.
On top of all this, they began blocking the websites immediately following India’s Supreme Court to decline a request to block these sites. H.L. Dattu who is India’s Chief Justice confirmed that it was a right to allow adults to look at pornography websites within their own private homes.
All of this began a conversation thread on Twitter and Reddit. The pornography websites appear to be accessible for some ISP’s such as Airtel and Tata Photon. One individual commented saying: “The website has been blocked because of the Competent Authority requirements”. Legally, India stated that eleven out of thirteen pornography websites could not open. Legally India uses the Spectranet broadband connection from Delhi. Not only this, but many pornography websites could be used on mobile phone devices.
ISP’s in India were then told that they could make some pornography websites accessible again as long as they didn’t contain child pornography. However, these ISP’s were unable to take on this task of filtering internet porn.
There are no codified instructions in place for ISP’s in India. There are also no features that allow them to report or judge content to an authority if such thing did occur. In India, in the year 2009; a bill was passed. This bill was to make child pornography illegal. However, given that the situation we have at present; there is no ruling process set in place.
As a result; the government of India is not giving much away. Nor are they trying to fix up and respond to the complaints received because of this unreasonable ban. The Supreme Court, in the month of July; judged the government of India for their lack of ability to block child pornography websites. Instead of fixing this problem, complete censorship was evened out. It seems that the first approach to censor porn, because of “decency and morality”; did not work. This resulted in the government invoking child pornography. They also seek any assistance in what they would do if such a thing happened.
Recently the Indian government has been trying to evade the prevalent criticism by initiating a legal obligation on internet service providers to decide on what site to re-open in the ongoing heightened discourse on child porn rule; the ISPs will have to shut down all of its sites. In fact, hitherto the ISPs have opted to lock the accessibility of 857 sites until they get further instruction from the government.
Considering the internet usage of an average Indian; there is a clear observable trend of excessive traffic to a number of pornographic sites. Although the decision by the government to block access to various sites can cause transient hindrances, it is a daunting task on the part of the government to try and employ a permanent restriction that will tidy up the tainted internet especially the night- time usage space. A variety ISPs have not yet locked the listed websites. Furthermore, most of the pornographic sites are hosted outside India. To add to it all, the availability of virtual private networks (VPNs), that allow users to bypass the access barriers imposed by the Indian government, has deemed the entire ban of pornographic sites ineffectual.
According to section 67 of the IT Acts laws are intended for publishing “explicit information in electronic form”, but there is no regulation on viewing pornographic content. Though displaying explicit content in public domains can be deemed invidious, accessing pornographic content from a private source is not illegal. To VPNs and proxies, there is no regulation on their legality although they operate at a highly risky environment. The initiative by the Indian Government to ban pornographic websites is a blueprint of the future regulatory plans the government has in store to safeguard the future of internet in India. But as for now, the ban is just a law as it can be bypassed through several ways and even a search on Google offers a number of options on how to bypass the encrypted restrictions.
Administrations have voiced their support on the ban considering it as necessary after the Indian’s Supreme Court pin pointed the Government’s failure to safeguard children from pornographic contents in the internet.
However, several institutions and activists groups have accused the government of trying to introduce “moral police” in the past and this week the ban on sites has received much more criticism. The activists are taking website 854 (nonvegjokes) on the ban list as an example to relay claims that the government has used an illusory extended definition of what is regarded as pornographic content. Nonvegjokes is a comedy site specializing on amplified off-color jokes. Its name refers to description of lascivious humor.
The website is not an archive for comedic gold. It has inducing gems such as; “sex is like a pizza”. When the site is bringing out something good, it is actually very good. When it is way off, it is extremely bad. But the site does not seem to contain any obvious pornography. And that is the reason why the ban has brought such intense reactions among the Indian web users.
The ban was intended to be temporary till the Supreme Court makes a ruling. The matter will be heard in court again on August 10 to try and have a definite ruling. Until then, web ban is still on, rubbish the government’s hype: online pornography is still blocked in India.