The Internet is currently buzzing with reports from users all across the country about their inability to access pornographic websites. Most of these users are either being directed to a blank page, or a ‘Directory doesn’t exist’ error message, but a few lucky people have been able to get a sort of an insight to this sudden change in the never-changing-Internet policy.
These users have reported that they are being redirected to a page saying, “This site has been blocked as per the instructions of Competent Authority,” or are seeing a message that indicates that the sites are being blocked as per directions received from Department of Telecommunication, Government of India.
The reports have been seen from users accessing Internet through a variety of state-owned ISPs including MTNL and BSNL and privately-owned ISPs like ACT, Spectranet, Tikona, Asianet and Hathway. Airtel users have not yet been blocked from this access though and both broadband and mobile users can still access these websites.
Following this development, there have been many posts and discussions online via Twitter or Reddit where Internet users are showing their frustration and anger towards the blocking of the sites. A Reddit user ‘reddesi’ says:
Could it be that a large majority of porn sites are hosted by one or two companies and maybe their pipe to India is broken right now? 11 out of these top 13 porn sites showing blank pages here on Spectranet in Delhi. Tracerourtes and ping are all connecting, slowly. Airtel mobile connection working normally.
The supreme court headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu in July, had responded to a request for blocking of porn websites in a petition filed by Kamlesh Vaswani, by saying:
It is an issue for the Government to deal with. Can we pass an interim order directing blocking of all adult websites? And let us keep in mind the possible contention of a person who could ask what crime have I committed by browsing adult websites in private within the four walls of my house. Could he not argue about his right to freedom to do something within the four walls of his house without violating any law ?
The reason for the mass-block in adult websites, for now, still remains a mystery. But it’s worth noting that last year, Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) had told the SC that they were just playing a small role in providing Internet access to the public and could not ban websites featuring child pornography (or any pornography for that matter) without direct orders from the court or the government.
The Government had then said that it believed that blocking of pornographic content online would do more harm to the nation as literary content containing such words would also not be available for public on the Internet.
UDPATE 1 :
An Economic times report, quoting numerous officials has now confirmed the block. And the number of porn sites blocked is a massive 857, including the likes of popular ones like PornHub and Brazzers.
An executive told ET,
The telecom department sent an order to block 857 websites late on Friday. That is probably why only few ISPs have blocked these over the weekend
Another senior executive member pointed out,
After the government meeting, there was an internal meeting of Internet companies and we haven’t moved from our side. What’s nudity to one person might be art to someone else. The scope of what can be blocked has to be really narrow.
However, it is also being said that the industry isn’t really taking this ban in stride. In fact, many industry experts have anonymously told ET that companies aren’t very happy with the government order, but have to anyways comply with it.
This ban could spark some serious net neutrality debate once again, considering this is a clear violation of the right to freedom, and the overall concept of net neutrality.
UPDATE 2 :
Take a look at the Government order banning websites.[scribd id=273372736 key=key-FRuH4Hl9Y5vi1Lq9D5R5 mode=scroll]