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India turns the porn back on

Government partially lifts ban on more than 800 adult websites following public outcry

India is partially lifting a ban on more than 800 pornographic websites, less than a week after its order to block the sites sparked widespread outcry. Government officials announced the reversal on Tuesday, after meeting with the country's internet service providers (ISPs). Only sites that contain child pornography will be banned, the government said, adding that ISPs will be responsible for policing their content. Child pornography is also already banned under Indian law.

"A new notification will be issued shortly," Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told India Today TV. "The ban will be partially withdrawn. Sites that do not promote child porn will be unbanned."

Providers still aren't happy

In an order issued on July 31st, India's communications ministry told ISPs to block access to 857 websites deemed to be "immoral and indecent." The list of adult websites was first proposed by lawyer Kamlesh Vaswani, who petitioned the Supreme Court to block them on the grounds that online pornography would encourage violence against women and moral corruption. The Supreme Court declined to issue a ban, saying it would violate personal freedoms, though a judge later criticized the government for not doing more to police child pornography.

Sites like PornHub and YouPorn were blocked over the weekend, with Indian web users expressing outrage and accusations of "Talibanization" on social media. The government later acknowledged that the ban was temporary and could be easily circumvented with a virtual private network (VPN).

Public criticism seems to have spurred the government's about-face, though Indian ISPs remain concerned over the intervention, arguing that they shouldn't be responsible for policing child pornography online. "How can the government put the responsibility on us to see whether a website carries child pornography or not?" Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers Association of India, tells The Times of India. "Why should an Internet service provider by punished if a website suddenly transmits child pornography?"


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