Saturday January 18, 2020

VPNs & Proxy sites make porn sites accessible despite ban

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By Muhammad Zulqarnain Zulfi

New Delhi: With the central government banning some of the pornographic websites, experts believe that accessing the blocked stuff on the Internet, is not difficult as many free proxy and virtual private network (VPN) services make it available for the eager user.

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The ministry of communications and information and technology, in its order of July 31 under section 79(3)(b) of the IT Act 2000 had banned 857 websites terming their content “immoral and indecent”.

Sources in the government, however, denied that there was any crackdown. They said denial of access at department of telecom’s (DoT) instance was “temporary, insisting that it was a prelude to the creation of a regular regulatory oversight.

They said the directive was necessitated by the Supreme Court’s observations last month over the home ministry’s failure in blocking child pornography on several sites, and claimed that the idea was not to “black out or police what people did in their bedrooms.” The government order seems to target many sites which have nothing to do with child pornography.

Experts say there’s always a workaround for accessing blocked website as long as its there on the Internet. “The easiest method would be to make use of proxies and VPN‘s. Many proxy and VPN services make it possible to access the banned stuff with complete anonymity on the Internet,” Hoshie Ghaswalla, CEO of media business for CyberMedia told a media outlet.

“Accessing blocked websites is even easier on android devices thanks to an free VPN apps. Apart from the basic VPN feature, the app even allows you to switch countries with ease, which makes it easy to bypass geographically blocked websites,” he added.

Advocating individual’s right to have access to adult contents, Karnika Seth, Cyberlaw expert and chairperson of the Lex Cyberia said that viewing adult content by adult is not illegal but its transmission/publishing is.

“Supreme Court is deciding the matter involving child pornography materials freely available online and its directions are for blocking them and not adult sites simpliciter, as viewing adult content by an adult is not illegal. Its transmission/publishing, though, surely is. Most of these sites are hosted from abroad,” Seth told the media.

The Supreme Court in its observation on the issue on July 8 had said banning such sites would be violation of an individual’s right to liberty.

“Such interim orders cannot be passed by this court. Somebody can come to the court and say Look, I am an adult and how can you stop me from watching it within the four walls of my room? It is a violation of Article 21 (right to personal liberty) of the constitution,” Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu said while hearing a petition of an Indore-based advocate Kamlesh Vaswani, who wanted a blocking of all porn sites.

According to telecom operators who have received notices from the telecom department, the government has asked Internet service providers (ISPs) to block hundreds of adult websites,

While some telecom operators have already complied with the government order to block certain websites, the rest are expected to implement the order in a day or two. A senior executive at one of the major ISPs said that the order was received late on Friday and that the company was in the process of implementing it. He declined to be identified.

While the government hasn’t said anything publicly on the censorship, access to popular pornography websites seems to have been restricted by several ISPs. Critics of the government’s move said the state should stop interfering with what adults are doing privately.

The Cellular Operators Association Of India (COAI) said it was not possible to block all the sites immediately.

“We have to block each site one by one and it will take a few days for all service providers to block all the sites,” a COAI member said.

Telecom service providers including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular refused to comment on this.

(IANS)

Next Story

Indian Parliament Imposes Ban on E-Cigarettes

Moving the Bill, Harsh Vardhan clarified that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products

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E-Cigarettes
E-cigarettes are electronic devices which can enable the delivery of all intoxicating substances. Predominantly, they are used for nicotine delivery, which is one of the most addictive elements known. Pixabay

Paving the way for a complete ban on E-Cigarettes, the Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Prohibition of E-Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, by voice vote.

The Bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha for replacing the ordinance promulgated last September.

Replying to members on the Bill, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged them to pass the legislation unanimously in the larger interest of the children.

“There is evidence now that e-cigarettes are very harmful. They can become a bigger menace than tobacco one day. So, the intention of the government has been to nip the problem in the bud itself,” the minister said.

While most members in the House supported the ban on e-cigarettes, some of the MPs wanted to know why conventional cigarettes aren’t banned as they are equally or even more harmful.

Many opposition members also expressed reservation over bringing the ordinance and introducing the Bill without sending the same to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.

On why all tobacco products are not being banned, Harsh Vardhan said that he would be the happiest person if that happens.

“You see, in a country as vast as India, once a particular product has a very big consumer base and social acceptance, it is in fact very, very difficult to ban it,” the minister said.

On the reasons for bringing the ordinance, the minister said that apart from other things, some of the big tobacco companies changed their names and started making plans to enter India.

E-Cigarettes
Paving the way for a complete ban on E-Cigarettes, the Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (Production, Manufacture, Import, Export, Transport, Sale, Distribution, Storage and Advertisement) Bill, 2019, by voice vote. Wikimedia Commons

“They had made full preparations. There was an announced entry of a company called Juul, one of the leading global manufacturers of e-cigarettes, in December 2019. It was probably one of the most imminent concerns that worried all of us,” he said.

Participating in the discussions, Trinamool Congress leader Santanu Sen argued for banning all tobacco products as all of them were harmful to human health.

“Of course, by this Bill we are preventing a person from committing suicide by jumping from the fifth floor, but we are also keeping the more affordable and accessible 10th floor wide open to jump from,” Sen said to highlight the serious health concerns posed by conventional cigarettes.

The Rajya Sabha MP, also national president of Indian Medical Association, noted that a normal cigarette constitutes 700 chemicals out of which 250 are very much harmful. Further, out of this 250 chemicals, 60 cause cancer while all of them are carcinogenic.

“Smoking increases coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times. It increases stroke by 2 to 4 times. It increases lung cancer by 25 times and it increases the probability of COPDA (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) by 13 times,” the Trinamool leader said.

Congress MP B.K. Hariprasad said that he did not support e-cigarettes but opposed the way the Bill had been brought. He also suspected the intention of the government behind bringing the ordinance and subsequently the Bill hurriedly.

“People are smelling a rat in the way this Bill has been brought hastily,” Hariprasad said while making a case for banning all tobacco products as all of them were equally harmful.

He said the government should not succumb to tobacco lobbyists.

Senior CPI leader Binoy Viswam also raised questions around the manner in which the bill had been introduced as no survey or study was carried out before bringing the legislation.

Replying to members on the Bill, Harsh Vardhan said that all his life he had fought against tobacco lobbyists and therefore members should not have any suspicion on his intention.

Congress MP Rajeev Gowda said that the ban has to be a last resort rather than the first resort which is what has been the practice in this particular context.

“A ban or prohibition, as we have seen everywhere, results in underground activities. It results in criminalisation of the society. It results in the creation of a mafia that deals with the underground activity,” Gowda said while participating in the discussions on the bill.

E-cigarettes are electronic devices which can enable the delivery of all intoxicating substances. Predominantly, they are used for nicotine delivery, which is one of the most addictive elements known. This also includes all forms of electronic nicotine as well as non-nicotine delivery devices such as e-hookahs and heat-not-burn products.

Moving the Bill, Harsh Vardhan clarified that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products.

“Any comparison about their adverse health impacts with tobacco is misplaced. There is also no conclusive evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes. On the other hand, there is definitely an emerging evidence all over the world that e-cigarettes have significantly harmful effects on health,” the minister said.

E-Cigarettes
The Rajya Sabha MP, also national president of Indian Medical Association, noted that Apart From E-Cigarettes, a normal cigarette constitutes 700 chemicals out of which 250 are very much harmful. Further, out of this 250 chemicals, 60 cause cancer while all of them are carcinogenic. Pixabay

Highlighting the harmful effects of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes, the minister said that nicotine sulfate was once approved to be used as a pesticide by the agriculture department.

“Recently, even that approval has been withdrawn considering its toxicity. Therefore, it is a chemical that is not even fit to be used as a pesticide. That is the latest about nicotine.

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“It is the most addictive substance currently known in the world and is even more addictive than heroin. There is currently no known treatment for nicotine-addiction anywhere in the world,” Harsh Vardhan said. (IANS)