India blocks 857 pornographic websites

2015-08-03 11:20

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New Delhi - The Indian government has told internet service providers and telecom operators in the country to block 857 pornographic websites.

Communications and Information Technology Ministry officials denied there was a crackdown and called it a "temporary measure".

"The directive came after the Supreme Court last month expressed concern over the Home Ministry's failure to block websites featuring child pornography," an official who requested anonymity said.

"The idea is to honour court observations and protect the cultural fabric of the society," the official said, insisting it was not a ban since several such websites are available, and also through VPN (virtual private networks) and proxy servers.

"This is an interim measure as the government contemplates building up a regulatory framework, which could include various measures including mass awareness," he added.

Telecom executives told local media it would take a few days to block all the websites.

Some users complained the "conservative" and "prudish" move by the Hindu nationalist government, saying it ran counter to the Supreme Court's position protecting the right of adults to access the internet.

The original petition, which led to the Supreme Court response last month, argued that crimes against women and children were influenced by the proliferation of porn sites, which is estimated to number about 40 million.

Watching porn is legal in India, although distribution and sale of pornographic material is illegal.

Hindustan Times daily cited data from Pornhub, one of the world's largest porn content providers, saying Indians were among the most "prolific consumers" of internet porn, accounting for 40% of its 14.2 billion visits.

Indian filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma said that given that level of popularity, any government embraced a ban would lose the next election.

"To ban porn, saying it will be seen by who shouldn't see it, is like saying to stop traffic because there will be accidents," he tweeted.

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