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Govt’s move to ban porn sites draw criticism

Free speech activists opposed the government's controversial attempt to censor what people watch in the privacy of their homes

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government, which aims to preserve traditional morality and social mores, blocked a long list of adult websites, 857 to be exact, in one of the biggest crackdowns on online pornography, drawing criticism that the move is an encroachment on personal freedom, impractical and difficult to implement.

The government has asked Internet service providers and telecom operators to ban popular adult websites, including redtube.com, xvideos.com, pornhub.com and youporn.com, even as it asked Internet service providers and telcos to keep the contents of the letter to them confidential.

Free speech activists opposed the government’s controversial and secretive attempt to censor what people watch in the privacy of their homes. The blocking of pornographic content on the web may make it even more difficult for the government to regulate illegal activities such as child pornography, some said. While the blocking has prompted concerns over Internet censorship, whether the government’s move to restrict access to these websites will be successful is an open question.

“Porn ban is anti-freedom, impractical, not enforceable. Politically not very smart too. avoidable. Let’s not manage people’s private lives," best-selling author Chetan Bhagat wrote on Twitter. “Don’t ban porn. Ban men ogling, leering, brushing past, groping, molesting, abusing, humiliating and raping women. Ban non-consent. Not sex."

The irony, people pointed out on Twitter, is that the land of the Kama Sutra would be so conservative about sexuality. Earlier attempts by the government to crack down on obscene content or block Internet porn nationwide have failed as it is easy for pornographic websites to bypass the blocking by changing the website’s Internet address.

The blocking of adult websites by the government was temporary and a prelude to the creation of regulatory oversight, The Times of India reported on Monday, citing unidentified government officials.

The directive was prompted by the Supreme Court’s observations last month that the home ministry has failed to check child pornography on the Internet, the newspaper reported on Monday.

To read the complete DoT order, click here

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