India's Government Asking ISPs to Block Porn

Nov 11, 2014 8:00 AM PST

NEW DELHI — The Indian government is asking the help of a number of ISPs and the Mobile Association of India to help stamp out access to porn sites in the country.

According to reports, authorities want the facilitators to create a blueprint, upgrade their infrastructure and implement a nation-wide ban.

The strategy would identify all porn sites accessible in India (especially those with child porn) and ensure blocking from the ISP without interfering with Internet speeds.

Telecom & IT Minister Ravi Shankar said in a meeting of the Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee prompted by the country’s Supreme Court in September that the plan was being formulated to implement the blockade on the country’s “porn problem.”

Shankar said that although viewing porn is legal in other countries, the issue should be observed in “context of Indian culture and moral obligation towards society."

But last June, the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) told the Supreme Court that they are not able to ban porn sites without any legal or infrastructural support from the government.

“It is impossible for an ISP to block pornographic sites without orders from the court or Department of Telecom (DoT). While ISPs are legally bound to comply with all orders to block pornographic or other websites as suggested by DoT, the task of identifying such websites ought not to be left to ISPs who lack institutional and logistical capacity to do the identification,” the Association's affidavit stated.

What’s more, the DoT said large-scale blocking of websites could slow the Internet down in a country that already suffers form low speed unless ISPs upgrade their infrastructure.

"The problem is that you are veering down a slippery ground if you try to do this, installing filters and all," said Prasanth Sugathan, counsel for the Software Freedom Law Centre. "Such blocks have been ineffective in countries such as the U.K. However, in China, where the ban on online pornography is strictly enforced, it is another story, as that country has people dedicated to monitoring content.”

The country’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party — that has close ties to major Hindu religious organizations — is also calling for the government to take steps to completely block Internet porn.

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