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Have most porn sites just been blocked in India? [UPDATE-4: Seems DOT ordered block]

Offline porn, Khajuraho
Offline porn, Khajuraho

Several pornography web sites are currently inaccessible in India on several internet service providers (ISPs).

According to a thread on discussion site and social network Reddit, several of the most popular porn sites are not accessible in India on internet connections provided by MTNL Mumbai, BSNL, Vodafone and ACT are either showing blank pages when connecting to pornography sites, or “Directory doesn't exist”.

One user reported that “It says the site has been blocked by the 'Competent Authority'”.

However, users on Airtel and Tikona, and one BSNL Delhi user reported that all sites could be accessed normally.

Update, 2 August: ISP confirms: Gov’t ordered block of 857 porn sites invoking section 69A, Shreya Singhal’s IT Act leftover

Legally India has confirmed that on one Delhi broadband connection provided by Spectranet, 11 out of the world’s 13 most popular porn sites (according to this post from 2014) were not accessible. Two websites were functioning normally.

Non-pornographic video sites such as youtube.com, vimeo.com or dailymotion.com were accessible normally.

However, on an Airtel mobile phone internet connection, all sites were working normally.

Update 4: One Reddit user’s browser displayed the message “Your requested URL has been blocked as per the directions received from Department of Telecommunications, Government of India” when attempting to access a porn site:

The Supreme Court declined to pass an interim order last month to block pornography websites in India, saying “how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room” in a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by an advocate to ban pornography websites in the country.

Chief Justice of India (CJI) HL Dattu observed that banning the watching of pornography at home would be “a violation of article 21”, the right to personal liberty, reported The Hindu.

The case is ongoing.

Advocate Apar Gupta (@aparatbar) commented on Twitter that the only way to find out whether this was a government block, would be to file a Right to Information (RTI) request with the Department of Telecommunication (DOT).

My hunch: does not seem to be a judicial order arising from K. Vaswani. May be DOT directions under the Blocking Rules, 2009.

The block does not appear to be at a domain-name server (DNS) level or IP address level, as three of the top five sites still responded to so-called ping requests by Legally India, though two timed out.

That said, it is a possibility that technical issues are behind the partial block.

We have reached out to the DOT for comment or confirmation.

Update 2: Hacktivist and technology expert Oxblood Ruffin 3.0 @OxbloodRuffin tweeted:

@LegallyIndia I'm not sufficiently familiar with the case, but my gut says this isn't a technical issue. More like inappropriate influence.

Update 3: In November 2014, the Narendra Modi government reportedly intending to “create a list of porn websites and ask Internet service providers (ISPs) to block them”, reported the Business Standard (via Reddit).

Update: Apar Gupta had written in a post on Facebook on 3 April:

The Kamlesh Vaswani petition which is asking for a web filter to censor any obscene content (obscenity is wider than pornography) is likely to come up for hearing on 14.04.2015. It is premised on a presumption that the consumption of pornography incites and causes sexual violence to women.

The Supreme Court by its Order on 12.07.2013 has stated that, "since this is not an adversarial litigation as such, it is hoped that all the parties, including the Union of India, will treat the matter with all seriousness and take positive steps to try and contain the menace".

A perceptible lack of opposition this case, why it is dangerous, is explained well by a quote from Nadine Strossen's (former president of the ACLU) in her book, Defending Pornography.

Its long but please bear with it. It articulates some important points and learnings which I thought will be useful to share.

"I share the fears, frustration, and fury about the ongoing problems of violence and discrimination against women, which no doubt have driven may to embrace the, "quick fix" that censoring pornography is claimed to offer. Who wouldn't welcome an end to the threat of violence that so many women feel every time they venture out alone in the dark? But censoring pornography would not reduce misogynistic violence or discrimination; worse yet, as this book shows, it would likely aggravate those grave problems. In the words of feminist attorney Cathy Crosson, while the procensorship strategy may be superficially appealing, at bottom it reflects, "the defeated, defeatist politics of those who have given up on really altering the basic institutions of women's oppression and instead have decided to slay the messenger."

The pornography feminists have forged frighteningly effective alliances with traditional political and religious conservatives who staunchly oppose women's rights, but who also seek to supress pornography. As noted by feminist anthropologist Carole Vance, "Every right-winger agrees that porn leads to women's inequality -- an inequality that doesn't bother him in any other way."

Under their join antipornography banner, the allies in this feminist-fundamentalist axis have mounted increasing - and increasingly successful -- campaigns against a wide range of sexually oriented expression, including not only art and literature, but also materials concerning such pressing public issues as AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, contraception, sexism, and sexual orientation.

So influential have the MacDworkinities become that all too many citizens and officials believe that the suppression of sexually oriented materials is a high priority for all feminists, or even all women. But nothing could be further from the truth.

An increasingly vocal cadre of feminist women who are dedicated to securing equal rights for women and to combating women's continuing second-class citizenship in our society strongly opposes any effort to censor sexual expression. We are as committed as any other feminists to eradicating violence and discrimination against women; indeed, many of us work directly for these goals every day of our lives. But we believe that suppressing sexual words and images will not advance these crucial causes. To the contrary we are convinced that censoring sexual expression actually would do more harm than good to women's right and safety. We adamantly oppose any effort to restrict sexual speech not only because it would violate our cherished First Amendment freedoms -- our freedoms to read, think, speak, sing, write, paint, dance, dream, photograph, film and fantasise as we wish ---- but it would undermine our equality, our status, our dignity and our autonomy".

Photo by Aotearoa

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