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All You Need to Know About the Ban on Porn Sites

Government playing with 'personal liberty'? Or was it a Government notification turned into a propaganda?

by Shantam Sahai

  • In 2013, Kamlesh Vaswani filed a petition to ban all access and distribution of pornography
  • DoT notifies ISPs to ban 857 URLs
  • Only porn sites showing child pornography will be banned, later clarified government officials

In August 2015, the Government of India banned access to 857 porn sites. Department of Telecom notified internet service providers to block access to these 857 URLs, under Section 79(3)(b) of Information Technology Act, 2000. The content on these websites related to morality, decency as given in Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India.

This list of 857 URLs was given by petitioner Kamlesh Vaswani to government officials on 17 October 2014. However, later the Government backtracked by saying it only plans to ban websites showing content related to ‘child pornography’. In November 2014, the Government had banned access to sites hosting pornography, the ban was later lifted due to heavy public pressure to unblock porn sites.

Read more: Govt’s order on ban on porn sites “vague and unimplementable”

India, the country where 'Kama Sutra' originated, faces serious problems with censorship of sexual content. Wikimedia Commons
India, the country where ‘Kama Sutra’ originated, faces serious problems with censorship of sexual content. Wikimedia Commons

Analysis of the ‘Porn ban’

By order no. 813-7/25/2011-DS (Vol.-V), the department of Electronics and Information Technology has asked the Department of Telecom to notify internet service providers to block access to 857 URLs. The notification functioned under provision of Section 79(3)(b) of Information Technology Act, 2000.

Section 79(3)(b) of The Information Technology Act, 2000 says:

“(b) upon receiving actual knowledge, or on being notified by the appropriate Government or its agency that any information, data or communication link residing in or connected to a computer resource controlled by the intermediary is being used to commit the unlawful act, the intermediary fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material on that resource without vitiating the evidence in any manner.”

In this case, the intermediary are ISPs and the ‘unlawful act’ is publication of pornographic content by websites. Under Section 67A of Information Technology Act, the publication of pornography is a punishable act which amounts to 3 years in prison and a fine upto Rs 5 lakhs.

Basically, publishing pornographic content is an offence in India, but viewing it is not. 

Hence, any debate on ‘Right to Privacy’ or ‘Personal Liberty’ won’t stand as the Government banned 857 porn sites under a defined law. It did not ‘ban’ anyone from viewing the content. The content was banned from being accessed by us. All that is left to debate, are legal loopholes and philosophy.

The Internet is a web of networks. In today's world of tech-savvies and the BIG Indian market, there is little or no way to ban any content. Pixabay
The Internet is a web of networks. In today’s world of tech-savvies and the BIG Indian market, there is little or no way to ban any content. Pixabay

‘Technically’, can’t ban porn

A notification by the Government to internet service providers in regard to 857 websites was being translated to a ‘porn ban’. However, a ‘porn ban’, technically, is quite an impossible task. For example, banning torrents just resulted in more sources from multiple servers around the world. Piratebay is still running full throttle.

You may also like: India ranks third in porn consumption 

Avoiding access to a bunch of URLs doesn’t mean a ‘ban’ on porn. Since viewing porn is not an offensive act and India is a huge market, people will figure out way to bypass and the traffic will just keep shifting.

Who is Kamlesh Vaswani?

Kamlesh Vaswani is a lawyer at Indore High Court, who filed a petition in 2013 to ban access and distribution of porn in India. He had heard of numerous brutal rape cases and after Nirbhaya, he decided to do something about it. Vaswani ended up in drawing a connection between pornography and crimes against women. His petition said:

“Watching porn itself puts the country’s security in danger, encourages violent acts, unacceptable behaviour in society, exploitation of children and lowers the dignity of women and he believes watching online pornography has a direct co-relation with crimes against women.”

The Supreme Court had rejected the petition saying it is a violation of Right to Privacy.

The big question! Does porn cause sexual violence?

Also read: The great Indian porn debate: Does it create rapists or release sexual frustration?

If “watching online pornography has a direct co-relation with crimes against women”, then why don’t we relate murder in a movie with murder in real life? Just like a movie, pornographic films has actors in staged situations which are discussed in advance. Some of the content does involve fantasy dominance and non-consent, but these are performed by consenting adults.

The questions left are, was this Government notification an enforcement of law? Or was it an enforcement of right-wing ‘sanskaar’ for political appeasement?

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