Govt to block all porn sites in India, asks Internet providers to deny access to such websites

The Indian government has gone back to trying to get Internet service providers (ISPs) to block all porn sites, a mission it has deemed impossible in the past since a new one pops up for every blocked porn site. It’s surprising that the authorities have taken up the issue again since servers on which pornography is hosted are usually located outside the Indian borders.

At a meeting between high-ranking government officials as well as the Telecom and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, the subject was raised once again. Prasad reportedly asked all the relevant departments to co-operate with each other to enhance the porn blocking options at the ISP level itself. But the plan on how to go about doing this sounds rudimentary at best.

UPDATE: Some ISPs are definitely blocking porn websites in India

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The Economic Times reports that a list of websites which are to be banned, including those containing child porn, will be delivered by the Internet and Mobile Association of India to ISPs to act upon. Since blocking porn sites on such a large scale can slow down data speeds, service providers will be required to bring their infrastructure up-to-date.

A big problem which stands in way of cleaning up the web of pornography is the HTTPS protocol for encrypting data transmission. Speaking in terms of the related rules enforced by the government, viewing porn in private is not counted as an offense, though hosting and transmitting such content is punishable by law.

The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team says that there are over 40 million porn websites and the majority of them operate outside our nation’s boundaries. And it’s not like people will find it impossible to visit blocked portals since accessing these through proxy servers is always an option.

Also see: India tops Facebook’s global list for content blocking requests

At the end of the day, it’s more about whether such a move pays heed to or completely tramples over Internet freedom, something that’s believed to be a basic human right in the modern world. Prasad thinks the issue must be handled in consideration of India’s culture and our moral obligation towards society.

Counsel for the Software Freedom Law Center, Prasanth Sugathan, has spoken out about the ineffectiveness of blocking ‘harmful’ online portals in places like the UK. China has a dedicated task force monitoring porn, while North Korea takes it to another level altogether via heavy Internet regulation.

Let’s hope the government doesn’t stomp all over our Internet freedom in an attempt to ban pornography sites in India. When it comes to content such as this, we’re talking about a many-headed monster which can’t be tackled with a simple strategy such as a list of portals to be blocked.