India orders clampdown on Internet porn, sparks censorship debate

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A visitor takes pictures of an adult film actress during the Eros Show in the Bulgarian capital Sofia April 2, 2008. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

NEW DELHI, Aug 3:    India has blocked hundreds of adult websites to prevent pornography becoming a social nuisance, a government official said on Monday, sparking a debate about censorship and freedom in the world’s largest democracy.
In India’s first big crackdown on Internet porn, service providers have been directed to block 857 websites, N.N. Kaul, a spokesman at the department of telecommunications, told Reuters.
“Free and open access to porn websites has been brought under check,” Kaul said.
“We don’t want them to become a social nuisance.”
The government, in a 17-page order issued on July 31 and leaked to freedom of speech activists on Monday, listed offending sites and directed service providers to block access on the grounds of morality and decency.
Last month, the Supreme Court refused to impose an outright ban after hearing a petition that said Internet porn fueled sex crime. The court said individuals should be free to access such websites in private.
But the court asked the home ministry to submit its views and the government acted after the ministry sent a letter to the telecom secretary, Kaul said.
Over the weekend, several sites became inaccessible and displayed messages that they were blocked on instructions of the competent authority. The hash tag #Pornban became a trend on Twitter.
“Porn ban is anti-freedom, impractical, not enforceable. Politically not very smart too. Avoidable. Let’s not manage people’s private lives” best-selling novelist Chetan Bhagat posted on Twitter.

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