The previously banned websites are now once more free to visit. CNET
The 857 porn sites blocked by the government of India in order to preserve “morality and decency” have been unblocked following a strong public backlash.
India’s Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Tuesday decreed that Internet service providers (ISPs) would be asked not to block sites, with the exception of those that contained child sexual abuse, the BBC reports.
The government is now putting the onus on ISPs to find and block child sex sites, The Times of India reports, a decision that drew protest from the country’s ISPs. “How can the government put the responsibility on us to see whether a website carries child pornography or not?” Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers Association of India, told the newspaper. “Why should an Internet service provider by punished if a website suddenly transmits child pornography?”
The reason for the ban was never entirely clear. The government forced ISPs to block the pornographic sites after they were “reviewed and found to be spreading antisocial activities,” government sources told the India-based news outlet Hindustan Times. However, other sources told Quartz India that the government was not “challenging anybody’s right to see the content,” but rather their ability to “show the content.”

The ban was most likely made under Section 69A of India’s IT Act. “Since its enactment in 2000, the IT Act has come under stringent criticism, both for the alleged Constitutional infirmities of its provisions and Rules, as well as for the way it is implemented,” according to the Centre for Internet and Society, an Indian Internet advocacy group.

The law gives the Indian government blanket authority to censor sites on the Internet deemed to be a threat to the “sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order [and] preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to above.”
Under the same piece of legislation, The Hindu reported that student Chaganti Rahul Reddy was arrested for comments made on Facebook in late 2014 about Cyclone Hudhud being divine retribution on India for not voting in the opposition YSR Congress Party during the elections.

Countries like India have always had a complicated relationship with pornography. Talking about sex is, beyond the expanding but still minority urban middle class, still taboo. The Internet has now brought it into every home with an Internet connection, shattering societal conceptions and norms in the process. Porn site Pornhub last year revealed that India was its fifth largest market.
India is not the first country to attempt to regulate Internet pornography. In Singapore for instance, over 100 porn sites are banned by the Media Development Authority on the grounds of protecting the island nation’s youth, according to Reuters. In most of the Muslim world, porn of any kind is outright illegal and people caught distributing and possessing pornographic material face prison.
Even in the US, that bastion of free speech, the government attempted to regulate online pornography through the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996 and the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) of 1998. Both laws were struck down as unconstitutional by the nation’s Supreme Court.

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