ISPs start blocking escort websites following govt order

by Prasad Krishna last modified Jul 02, 2016 04:17 AM
DoT on Monday ordered blocking of 240 URLs; blocking of websites takes place under Section 69A of the IT Act, and Information Technology Rules.

The article by Moulishree Srivastava was published in the Business Standard on June 14, 2016.


The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have started blocking websites allegedly offering escort services after an order from the Department of Telecommunication (DoT).

The DoT on Monday asked ISPs to immediately block around 240 such URLs (Uniform Resource Locator) offering escort services, to filter out obscene content on the internet. Speaking to Business Standard, Internet Service Providers Association of India’s (ISPAI) President Rajesh Chharia said the ISPs were in process of shutting down these websites. ISPAI represents 60 ISPs including Bharti Airtel, Tata Teleservices, Reliance Communication, Vodafone and Idea Cellular.

“We received the order yesterday, and it entails a list of about 240 websites that the government wants us to block,” said Chharia.  “CERT-In, which works under the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (Deity), advised the department on certain websites that it feels could be a national or social threat. Deity then reached out to DoT, which is our licensor. We are the licensee, and as per the licensing agreement, we have to comply with the order.”

While declining to comment on whether this is the first such order the association had received this year, Chharia said, “Since last few years, we have been receiving orders to block websites which hosts content that may be a threat to social order or national security.” Blocking of websites takes place under Section 69A of the IT Act, and a 2009 secondary legislation called the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules (“Blocking Rules”).

The rules empower the central government to direct any agency or intermediary to block access to information when satisfied that it is “necessary or expedient so to do” in the interest of the “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 cognisable offence relating to above. Intermediaries failing to comply are punishable with fines and prison terms up to seven years.”

In December 2014, around six months after the Modi-led BJP government came into power, the DoT ordered ISPs to block 32 websites, including Vimeo, Dailymotion, GitHub and Pastebin.

According to an RTI filed by no-for-profit organisation Software Freedom Law Centre in March last year, Deity said 2341 URLs were blocked in 2014, adding that “barring few numbers, all URLs were blocked on the orders of the Court”.

Another RTI filed by Bangalore based think tank Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) found that 143 URLs were blocked in first three months of 2015 in order to comply with the directions of the competent courts. Later that year, the government attempted to block about 857 porn websites, but it had to revoke the order following the backlash online and offline.

The recent notice named a number of websites that need to be banned, including pinkysingh.com, jasmineescorts.com, onlyoneescorts.com, payalmalhotra.in, localescorts.in, pearlpatel.in, kavyajain.in, xmumbai.in, shimi.in and anchu.in.

According to Freedom on the Net 2015 report by Freedom House, which termed India as a “partly free” country on the internet, there were 129 operational ISPs in India as of May 2015.

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