Indian Porn Ban is Partially Lifted But Sites Remain Blocked

by Pranesh Prakash last modified Sep 13, 2015 09:00 AM
The Indian government made a quick about-face on its order to block hundreds of pornography websites on Tuesday, partially lifting the ban after political backlash against the moral policing.

The article was published in Wall Street Journal on August 5, 2015. Pranesh Prakash gave his inputs.


But the websites remained blocked because Internet service providers were afraid of legal trouble.

The new order from the Department of Telecommunications said that Internet service providers could unblock any of the 857 websites, so long as they don’t contain child pornography. However, the websites remain blocked because service providers say they have no way of knowing whether they contain child porn, and no control over whether they will in the future.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, the IT minister, said Tuesday night that the government would trim down the list of banned sites, to focus only on those that contain 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 The ban will be partially withdrawn.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,” said Mr. Prasad on the TV news channel India Today.

The wording of the new order created confusion, because it appears to put the responsibility for policing the Internet for child pornography on service providers.

“How can we go ahead? What if something comes up tomorrow [on one of these sites], which has child porn, or something else?,” said an executive at an Indian service provider who asked not to be named.

“The onus cannot be put on the service providers. What the government is doing is inherently unfair, it is not what the law requires,” said Pranesh Prakash, policy director at the Centre for Internet and Society, a Bangalore-based civil liberties advocacy group. It is the government’s job to determine what violates the law, not private companies, Mr. Prakash said.

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