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India Cracks Down on Adult Sites, Ignites Censorship Debate

India Cracks Down on Adult Sites, Ignites Censorship Debate: Photo Courtesy of Flickr / Olli Henze

Photo Courtesy of Flickr / Olli Henze

UPDATE: India’s government has reversed its decision to ban 857 porn sites in the name of “morality and decency.” The reversal came after a public backlash against the ban and accusations of unnecessary censorship and government overreach.


Indian government officials announced Monday that the country has blocked 857 porn sites to prevent pornography from becoming a “social nuisance,” Reuters reports. The porn clampdown—the first of its kind in India–has prompted a debate about censorship in the world’s largest democracy.

The government issued a 17-page order on July 31 listing offending sites and directing service providers to block access to them, citing morality and decency as defined in the Constitution of India’s 19th article. The report was leaked Monday to freedom of speech activists.

“Free and open access to porn websites has been brought under check,” N.N. Kaul, a spokesman at the department of telecommunications, told Reuters.

After hearing a petition last month which said Internet porn fueled sex crime, the Supreme Court refused to impose an outright ban. The court said individuals should be free to access porn sites in private. But the government did act after the home ministry sent a letter to the telecom secretary stating its views on the matter.

This weekend, porn sites began displayed messages saying they were blocked on instructions of the competent authority, prompting many to express their dismay on Twitter–including best-selling novelist Chetan Bhagat.

India has the second largest number of Internet users after China; Pornhub last year ranked India fifth for daily visitors.

Kaul suggested the ban would not remain indefinitely, and said the government was working toward a long-term solution.

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