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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Can’t ban pornography on Internet: Govt to SC

PIL calling for ban on such sites and against absence of relevant laws comes up for hearing today.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi |
April 28, 2014 12:31:41 am

PIL calling for ban on such sites and against absence of relevant laws comes up for hearing today.

There cannot be a complete ban on Internet pornography in the country and legal actions are also not possible in a large number of cases, the government has told the Supreme Court.

The Secretary of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has said even as there exists a procedure to issue direction for blocking pornographic websites, it is not feasible to black out all such websites due to practical difficulties, coupled with technological issues.

His affidavit in the apex court stated that the Internet servers, on which the pornographic materials are hosted, were quite often located in foreign countries, where such publication is permissible.

“As publication and transmission of pornographic material (excluding child pornography which is illegal almost everywhere in the world) is legal in these countries, it is not possible to take actions against entities operating such servers under Indian laws,” it said.

Pointing out the challenges in the cyber space that is dynamic, has virtual boundaries and is also anonymous, the Secretary said it was “technologically not feasible to monitor the contents” since it would involve human intervention, which is bound to increase the delay in transmission and would consequently slow down the Internet. Further, even if a website is blocked, the same content can be hosted on a different server, may be in a different country, within a few seconds with the help of electronic tools, the affidavit said.

“As all forms of data, audio, video, text, images, etc, are transmitted together, it will not only introduce large delay in the transmission of forms of data but may also adversely affect the normal audio communications made through Internet telephony. The entire traffic from the websites, emails, electronic and financial transactions, etc, will have to be examined during the process,” the affidavit said.

The court, which is hearing a PIL on banning pornographic websites in the country and the absence of laws to regulate such contents, will take up the Secretary’s response Monday. It had earlier asked government departments to put their head together to deal with the “serious” issue and propose a mechanism to block such sites, particularly those showing child pornography.

The government maintained that a total ban on pornography would require censorship before the content could be released in cyber space.

It added that although there were commercially available filters to scan pornographic content, their efficacy was limited since they could also filter materials available for education, medical research, etc, besides slowing down the speed of the Net. These filters, the government said, were also bypassed by use of encryption technology.

The SC had asked the Secretary to file his personal affidavit to clarify whether DoT or any other government department was competent to issue direction to the Internet service providers for calling off sites showing pornography.

In response to this query, the Secretary said the role of DoT was limited to issuing directions for blocking the service providers only after the Group Coordinator in Cyber Law Division of the Department of Electronics & Information Technology directs it to do so and that it could not do it on its own. The procedure however contemplates that a request for blocking of a website must come from a court or a nodal officer of an organisation and no complaint from an individual shall be entertained.

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