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India banned internet porn on Saturday, then unbanned it 48 hours later

“There’s no thinking behind the decision,” said one expert.

shutterstock_301936739 Source: Shutterstock/nikitabuida

INDIA HAS REVERSED a controversial order banning hundreds of porn websites, a government official said today, after accusations of heavy-handed censorship.

On Saturday, authorities had directed Internet service providers (ISPs) to block 857 websites on “morality and decency” grounds and to curb child pornography.

But the ban drew criticism and public ridicule, forcing the government to cancel the order yesterday, and direct the ISPs to allow access to the banned websites, except those containing child porn.

“ISPs are free to allow access to the previously banned websites, which do not have child pornographic content,” N. N. Kaul, spokesman for the government’s telecoms department, told AFP.

Although the government has cancelled the order, some ISPs said they would not lift the block until they have more clarity, as the new order puts the onus on them to prevent access to child pornography.

Rajesh Chharia, head of the Internet Service Providers Association of India, told AFP:

This is a very vague order. There is no clarity and until we get clear answers, we will keep the websites blocked.

Authorities had argued the ban was necessary after India’s supreme court voiced concern last month about the government’s failure to block access to child pornography on the Internet.

India Parliament Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Source: Manish Swarup/PA

According to the adult site Pornhub, India was its fourth largest source of traffic behind the United States, Britain and Canada in 2014.

Rakshit Tandon, a consultant on Internet technology and cyber crime, said holding ISPs responsible for checking child porn was unrealistic.

Trawling millions of web pages manually and blocking child porn is impractical. There’s no thinking behind the decision.

India has been accused of heavy-handed online censorship in the past, including in 2012 when it ordered 300 webpages, images and links on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter blocked.

It said they were being used to spread rumours that were fuelling ethnic tensions.

In March, a government-appointed board of censors blocked the release of the erotic film “Fifty Shades of Grey” in cinemas, despite being shown a toned-down version, sparking claims of moral policing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government was embroiled in a controversy the same month for getting a court order banning the broadcast of a BBC documentary on the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in 2012 on grounds it risked fuelling public anger.

Contains reporting by AFP.

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