India drops online porn ban


  • India
  • Thursday, 06 Aug 2015

NEW DELHI: India has reversed a controversial order banning hundreds of porn websites, a government official said, after accusations of heavy-handed censorship in the world’s largest democracy.

On Saturday, telecommunication authorities had directed Internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 websites on “morality and decency” grounds and to curb child pornography, the first major crackdown on online pornography in the country.

But the ban drew criticism and public ridicule, forcing the government to cancel the order on Tuesday and direct the ISPs to allow access to the banned websites, except those containing child porn.

“ISPs are free to allow access to the previously banned websites, which do not have child pornographic content,” N.N. Kaul, a spokesman for the government’s telecoms department, said yesterday.

Although the government has cancelled the order, some service providers said they would not lift the block until they had more clarity as the new order puts the onus on them to prevent access to child pornography.

“This is a very vague order. There is no clarity and until we get clear answers, we will keep the websites blocked,” Rajesh Chharia, head of the Internet Service Providers Association of India, said.

Authorities had argued that the ban was necessary after India’s supreme court voiced concern last month about the government’s failure to block access to child pornography on the Internet.

Next week, the top court is again scheduled to hear the petition to ban online porn outright. Judges observed during a hearing last month on the petition that adults had the right to access adult sites in private.

According to the adult site Pornhub, India was its fourth largest source of traffic behind the United States, Britain and Canada last year.

Child pornography is illegal in India, as is publishing, hosting and transmitting it, but watching porn in private is legal. — AFP

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