India just walked back its ban on hundreds of porn websites

India just walked back its ban on hundreds of porn websites

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By Olivia Becker
Facing mounting public anger and ridicule, India announced Tuesday that it will lift its controversial and short-lived ban on pornographic websites, and clarified that it will only ban child porn.
“The intermediaries [internet service providers]are hereby directed that they are free not to disable any of the 857 URLs… which do not have child pornographic content,” India’s Telecommunications Ministry announced Tuesday night, reported the Hindustan Times. But the announcement did little to explain the motivation for the block in the first place, since child pornography is already banned in the country.The reversal comes a day after internet users in India discovered that more than 800 of their favorite porn sites had been mysteriously blocked. Outrage quickly spread online and on social media, particularly on Reddit, from India residents who were met with the vague message that their favorite porn sites had been blocked on the orders of the India’s Department of Telecommunications.
The crackdown was a result of the efforts of Kamlesh Vaswani, a 43-year-old lawyer from Indore province, who filed a petition to ban access to hundreds of adult websites with the Supreme Court in 2013. Vaswani, acting in response to the brutal 2013 gang rape of a woman in Delhi, argued that pornography promoted violence against women and was “like moral cancer that is eating our entire society.”
“Nothing can more efficiently destroy a person, fizzle their mind, evaporate their future, eliminate their potential, or destroy society like pornography,” wrote Vaswani in his petition. “It is so terrible that many do not even recognize it until it is too late, and most refuse to admit it. It is worse than Hitler, worse than AIDS, cancer or any other epidemic. It is more catastrophic than nuclear holocaust, and it must be stopped.”
The Supreme Court ruled against Vashwani’s case in June, arguing that blocking pornography sites would infringe on personal civil liberties and the right to freedom of expression. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court H.L. Dattu said that the government does not have the authority to dictate what people consume in the privacy of their own home.
Despite that ruling, India blocked the sites anyway. This caused widespread outrage, not just from fans of porn but those who saw the move as infringing on civil liberties.
However, it quickly became clear that the ban did little to prevent people who were determined to view online porn, for instance via their smartphones or through a proxy server.
India is home to half of the world’s internet users, and is also one of the world’s top consumers of pornography. According to the popular pornographic website Pornhub, the country ranks 5th worldwide in the site’s visitors.
India’s government, realizing this, peddled back on the crackdown and reinstated access to the sites. Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government would follow the Supreme Court’s ruling that permitted access to pornographic websites on the basis of freedom of communication.
“I reject with contempt the charge that it is a Talibani government, as being said by some of the critics,” Prasad said, according to Hindustan Times. “Our government supports free media, respect communication on social media and has respected freedom of communication always.” – Vice Newsd

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