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VPNs & Proxy sites make porn sites accessible despite ban

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)

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