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India Couldn't Ban Porn, So It Blocked 857 Porn Sites Instead

Internet users in India found they could no longer access porn online Sunday.
August 3, 2015, 4:20pm
An Indian internet user finds a blank page where porn should be. Image: MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP

Over the weekend, Indian internet users started noticing a worrisome trend: The porn was gone. The Indian government has reportedly compelled service providers to block more than 800 porn sites.

Users began to voice their suspicions of a porn ban Sunday on social media platforms like Reddit, as they noticed adult sites were blocked on most ISPs, including Vodafone, MTNL, ACT, Hathway and BSNL.

The government later confirmed it was acting on a 17-page order issued July 31 that asked service providers to block sites on grounds of "morality and decency." The PDF document, which listed the 857 blocked sites, including major sites like Pornhub and RedTube, was leaked to activists and posted online.

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"Free and open access to porn websites has been brought under check," communications ministry spokesman N.N. Kaul confirmed to Reuters. "We don't want them to become a social nuisance."

The alleged block comes a month after the Supreme Court of India declined to pass a ban on porn, ruling it couldn't interfere with citizens' right to consume adult content at home. Kaul told Reuters the ban would only be temporary as the government works on a long-term solution.

Of course, there's no word on how effective the blocks will be, given that there are far more porn sites in the world than 800. Some users report that they've used VPNs to successfully circumvent the ban. Meanwhile, activists and public figures are already speaking out against the mass blocking, saying it violates internet freedom and free speech protections.

"It is illegitimate because it is not as though the government has found these websites unlawful … This is a blanket ban and the government has not thought through the consequences," Pranesh Prakash, policy director of the think tank Centre for Internet and Society, told the Guardian.