Thursday, Oct 23, 2014

Can’t block porn sites on our own, ISPs tell SC

Express News Service | New Delhi | Posted: January 28, 2014 12:15 am

EXPRESSING their inability to exercise censorship, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) Monday told the Supreme Court that they could not block pornographic websites without a direction from the government or a court.

In its reply to a PIL asking for a ban on pornographic websites, the Internet Service Providers Association India (ISPAI) also pointed out that definition of pornography was totally subjective and “one man’s pornography is another man’s high art”.

“ISPs lack the institutional and legal capacity to adjudge what is pornography and what is permissible. Although ISPs remain ready and willing to block all sites deemed pornographic by DoT or by courts, they are not in a position to take suo motu action on websites without such directions,” said the association.

Clarifying that ISPs neither created any content nor owned it, the association told the court their licences by the Department of Telecom (DoT) in fact forbid them from monitoring content of the customers in the normal course of business or otherwise. It pointed out that under the existing blocking rules, ISPs could act only at the instance of DoT or when there was a specific court order.

“Access to Internet may deemed to be a fundamental right…blocking (by ISPs) would tantamount to pre-censorship of content without authority of law by ISPs and could unfairly limit the fundamental right of customers and may also expose ISPs to liability under the civil laws or torts,” stated the affidavit by ISPAI.

The association also submitted that there was a need to define the term pornography as its boundaries were “amorphous”.

Meanwhile, the government failed, for the fifth straight time, in filing its reply to the PIL and apprise the court whether they had a will and a mechanism to ban pornographic websites, especially those with child pornography. The court gave another three weeks to DoT to file its response.

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