ban on porn in india

Ban on porn sites, legitimate content, and limitations on social media: Indian Govt.

ban on porn in india

The plan is to begin by creating a list of pornography sites, especially those hosting child porn, and provide that to Internet service providers (ISPs) to block. And then, to ensure that largescale blocking does not slow Internet access, service providers will be asked to upgrade their infrastructure. The Internet and Mobile Association of India has been asked to curate the list.

On September 5th 2014, 23 individuals, including Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, CERT-IN head Gulshan Rai, government officials from DoT, Deity, CBI, as well as representatives of industry bodies like IAMAI, FICCI, ASSOCHAM, CII met in the Conference Room No. 1007 at the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (Deity) to discuss how such a filter might be implemented…Not whether there should be a filter at all, but how such a filter should be implemented.

In fact, when NASSCOM raised the issue of blocking legitimate content, the Telecom Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, who chaired the meeting, said that the “larger issue of respecting cultural values of the country and sentiments of the Indian society need to be considered and all possible ways and means may have to be devised in this context.”

In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that, along with CERT-In , they are “working together to block websites containing objectionable contents having the potential to create communal violence and law and order problem as well as sensitive from the national security point of view. He further added that Ministry of I&B has set up National Media Centre to monitor contents of various websites on the Internet on 24 x 7 basis.”

The CRAC (Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee) meeting was looking to filteration of the web, following the filing of a writ petition by Kamlesh Vasvani in the Supreme Court of India, alleging that “easy access to porn websites results in illegal activities like rape, harassment, molestations of women.” The filter is likely to be created for censoring porn online, but as we pointed out earlier, this itself is tricky.

Why we’re worried

1. It’s not about porn alone: The problem with blocking pornography is the collateral damage that comes along with it. In the minutes of the meeting, Gulshan Rai, DG, CERT-IN, refers to a letter from Sharad Pawar, MP and leader of the NCP, to the Prime Minister, which raises the issue of incidents “of communal and related violence in Maharastra triggered by objectionable profiles posted on the social networking sites, hurting sentiments of certain sections of society.”

2. Once a filter is in place, it’s mandate will increase: The last line of the minutes of the meeting: “Regarding the misuse of social media for disturbing social harmony in the country, MCIT requested MHA to look into the matter and evolve steps to prevent misuse.”

If we set up a filter, and politicians want content blocked because it hurts certain sections of society, the government will start blocking everything. The mandate will expand to blocking other content as well.

3. We won’t know what is blocked: We’ve seen from the Department of Telecom in the past, there is lack of transparency on what all is being blocked, why it is being blocked. The Department is yet to even acknowledge an RTI filed by MediaNama, for copies of orders related to blocking content, that do not pertain national security concerns. We’ve filed an appeal with the appellate authority. But we never know what is blocked or why it has been blocked.

4. We won’t know how to get content unblocked: Today, if the government blocks a site, whether because of a court order or because a political party doesn’t like criticism, we don’t know how to get the blocks removed. There is no recourse.

5. Filters will make blocking easier: which means more blocks, implemented more quickly, and with lack of transparency, things can get crazy and whimsical.

The social media issue is concerned, the meeting doesn’t shed much light on how the content screening will take place. Will criticism of the government’s policies also come under this web-filtration? We have no details on the specifics. And let’s not forget India is the leader when it comes to blocking content on Facebook.

As the Medianama piece rightly points out the ambiguity of what could end up getting filtered is what makes this scary. Additionally the whole ‘pornography is against Indian culture’ idea is also worrying because it shows that the government is going along with a rigid definition of what is presumed as the “correct” Indian culture. More details about the meetings are available here

Credits: Medianama/Firstpost

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