Porn ban: Govt reviews order, asks ISPs to block only child porn

Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the government is committed for freedom of communication on the Internet.

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: August 5, 2015 9:15 am
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Under fire for its decision to ban 857 websites over issues of “morality” and “decency”, the government Tuesday reviewed its order and lifted the ban on websites that did not contain pornographic material but were mentioned in the list.

A PTI report, however, quoted a government official as saying that the ban was likely to continue on websites containing child pornography material.

“The government is directing Internet Service Providers (ISPs) as an interim measure to disable porn sites featuring child pornography. Other considerations will be looked into after the court hearing,” the agency said, quoting a government source.

READ: Why India’s order to block 857 websites might not work

The 17-page order issued by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) Friday listed the names of websites that were being blocked. But it also contained names of several humour and dating websites, forcing the government to revise its order within a day.

On Tuesday, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad chaired a high-level review meeting that was attended by IT Secretary R S Sharma and Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, among others.

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Prasad said that the meeting concluded with the decision to tell the ISPs to let websites without pornographic material remain accessible.
While explaining the rationale behind the original directive, Prasad said: “The instant action was basically in obedience to the observation of the Supreme Court, where the court had asked the department to take action on the list of alleged porn sites provided by the petitioner.”

The minister, however, maintained that the government was committed to freedom of communication on the Internet.

“The government compliments dissemination of the idea on social media. We have launched the ‘mygov’ platform to seek views of the people on the developmental agenda, and lakhs are participating on this platform,” PTI quoted Prasad as saying.

The Centre had Friday issued an order to block 857 websites following the Supreme Court’s July 8, 2015 directive in response to a petition filed in 2013.

The PIL filed by Indore-based lawyer Kamlesh Vaswani in 2013 sought an action plan and an exclusive law to contain the proliferation of pornographic websites.

On July 8, the Supreme Court nudged the government towards taking action. The bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu  had expressed its unhappiness over the fact that things had not moved ahead and the sites were still functional.

A DeitY official had on Monday confirmed that the  ISPs had been asked by the department to take down 857 porn websites.