Porn Ban Has the government got all its bases covered Flickr: John Dill
news Tuesday, August 04, 2015 - 17:24

This past Sunday was not such a good one for those who stayed home. Social media erupted with outrage when several users failed to access pornographic content and little birdies told us that the government had a hand in it.

Come Monday and it was clear that the government had asked for 857 websites which violated “morality and decency” and were found in violation of Section 79 (3) (b) of the IT Act to be blocked. But this kind of a blanket ban with the manner of ‘banning all you can find’ raises more questions than answers.

Whatsapp forwards have already started doing the rounds as those affected by the ban are finding ways around it, and there are. But was this kind of a ban warranted in the first place? Rest aside venturing into whether porn is “right” or “wrong”, should the government have not informed its citizens before the ban?

Pranesh Prakash, Policy Director at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), refers to the ban of the book Lady Chatterley's Lover in the 60’s while speaking to The News Minute. “The ban of a book is, by law, required to be made public before the government can seize books,” says Prakash, citing Sec 95 of the CRPC. “However, the government believes that it can ban websites—even those whose knowledge wouldn't jeopardize national security—in secret, which is rather shocking in a democracy,” he adds.

CIS had initially put out the leaked government order which contained the 857 websites deemed obscene and social media was on a hunt for the meticulous employee who had come up with the never-ending list. There were also objections to the fact that websites like College Humour and 9GAG were inaccessible now.

“The government did not come up with the list,” says Prakash, mentioning that the compilation of websites was handed over by the Additional Solicitior General Pinky Anand. “She in turn received it from the person who filed the PIL arguing for proactive blocking of porn websites: Kamlesh Vaswani,” he adds.

With a list in hand, the government is believed to have proceeded further with sending out the directive to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). But can they really stone-wall us from porn?

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and proxy websites will still allow for users to log on to a website of their choosing, and Prakash mentions that it will be a problem for security agencies in the country. The IP addresses of such users are difficult to track and Prakash says that people will be “happy to use VPNs, the Tor network, and other encrypted proxies, which will in turn irk Indian security agencies.”

What the government also has to deal with is user-generated content, the kind which is flooding our internet space. And it is bad news for the dispensation but there are several sites still in perfect functioning order where user-generated content ranges from revenge porn to posts like ‘Watch my hot sis’. Look away if you may, this is the ugly side where breaches of privacy come into the picture.

“I think it is better if the authorities had prosecuted such individual cases,” says Prakash. He is referring to such posts which find their way onto websites which have “forums” where users can discuss this kind of content. He mentions that there are methods to keep even this kind of activity in check. “A lot of websites have community guidelines, like you cannot access nudity on Youtube, for example,” he says: his point being that if an internet community itself is aware, it will frame guidelines which restrict such breaches of privacy.

“I think it is much wiser to launch criminal prosecution in these individual cases,” he says. “Sections 66E, 67, and 67B of the IT Act — dealing with issues such as voyeuristic non-consensual sexual images, child pornography, and online obscenity — are all under-used,” he adds, mentioning that they are “apt tools to tackle this menace.”

The ban is upon us though, and social media is even suggesting what the government should ban next with #NextBanIdea

Shhhh…… Heard of the dark web?

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