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Why banning porn sites in India does not work- Technology News, Firstpost


Irrespective of what anyone says, people in India love porn. Despite the fact that the government of India has time and again tried banning porn in the country in some way or the other, consumers of pornographic material and films find some way or the other.

A game of whack-a-mole_ Why banning porn sites in India does not work (1)

As per PornHub’s internal data, India is the third largest consumer of pornographic content | Image Credit: Wiki Commons

Although porn as such isn’t exactly banned in India, from time to time, the Indian government comes up with lists of URLs of porn sites for ISPs to ban. However, even that does not stop the avid consumers of smut from logging onto these supposedly banned sites.

We take a deep dive into India’s porn-consuming habits, and why, it is nearly impossible for the Indian government to ban porn outright.

Breaking down the numbers: porn consumption in India
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the second most populated country in the world is also one of the top consumers of porn. India has the third largest base of porn consumers in the world, in some polls, whereas in others, we have come a close second. Back in 2019, about 89 per cent of mobile phone users consumed some form of erotica on their phones, with a vast majority consuming videos. During the lockdown, India registered a 20 per cent jump in consumption of pornographic content. 

And for some reason, if anyone assumes that it is only men who consume smut on the internet, they would be wrong. About 30 per cent of Indian porn consumers are women, as per PornHub’s internal data

The problem with the internet
Even though most Indians consume porn using their smartphones, the number of people who actually store porn on their phones is very little. Most of the visual porn that is consumed in India, is consumed on the internet, thanks to the availability of dirt-cheap data plans. 

While the Government’s ban on certain URLs may be a detriment, it isn’t actually able to stop people from accessing those websites. Moreover, a significant portion of the porn that is consumed in India is the material that is shared using WhatsApp and Telegram

Why does banning porn sites doesn’t work?
Let’s take China as an example to understand better why banning porn, especially in the age of the internet, simply doesn’t work. Since 1949, pornography has been banned in China. In 2002, the Chinese government started cracking down on internet pornography. China is also known for having an extremely censored version of the internet so much so, that often people assume that China has their own, separate internet. 

However, China has a pretty sizeable population of porn consumers. There are various other stories globally – Afghanistan, most Middle-eastern countries, our neighbours to the east as well as the west – a large chunk of Asia has at some point tried to ban internet-based porn.

One might think VPNs and proxy servers may be the sole reason why banning a pornographic website isn’t possible. While that may be true to a certain there are various other reasons why banning porn websites doesn’t really work.

First of all, the way any government bans a website is by submitting a URL or a list of URLs to ISPs. Most websites can create a mirror site, with a slightly different URL, or port their content to a similar domain. 

The filtering system can also be defeated if a website decides to encrypt the traffic by using HTTPS instead of HTTP because then the internet service providers can’t see what a user is accessing. This becomes much easier if the previous version of the website, the URL which was submitted, did not have the HTTPS bit in their URL but only HTTP instead. 

The biggest problem, however, is a culmination of the previous two. The sheer number of websites, and the permutations of their name, is impossible to keep a track of. It would be virtually impossible for any government to keep a track of all the pornographic websites, or web addresses that host pornographic content. 

But yes, the easiest and simplest way that porn consumers in India bypass any ban is through VPNs and proxy servers. There is also the fact that certain popular browsers come with inbuilt VPNs and proxy servers.

The blocks and content filtering can be made more robust if we use keyword-based filtering or by employing deep packet inspection of the internet traffic. This is something that countries like China and Saudi Arabia have tried but it is also vastly more expensive and difficult to maintain, not to mention the fact that if someone really tries to bypass the system, they still can.

Long story short, several countries have declared pornography to be illegal. However, none of them were able to completely ban or stop the consumption of pornography within their sovereign boundaries.

A game of whack-a-mole_ Why banning porn sites in India does not work

While VPNs and proxy servers make it virtually impossible for governments to ban porn, they are not the only reason. | Image Credit: Unsplash

What does the law say in India?
Pornography as a subject in India is rather interesting. The selling and distribution of pornographic material is illegal in India under section 292. Similarly, child pornography is illegal and strictly prohibited across the country under section 67B of the Information Technology Act of 2000. The manufacturing, publishing and distribution of pornography is illegal in India under sections 292, and 293. 

However, in a case from 2015, the Supreme Court of India orally stated that viewing porn in a private room may fall under the Constitution’s Right to Personal Liberty. The Supreme Court did eventually ban pornographic websites, and the Government did try to ban over 850 popular websites. However, the Government had to rescind the ban on a number of websites. In 2018, the Uttarakhand High Court reinstated the Supreme Court’s ban after a group of 4 boys accused of rape in the state’s capital Dehradun said they were nudged into committing the crime after watching a porn movie.

What is illegal for sure, is accessing banned websites by the means of proxy servers and VPNs that have been banned, but hardly anyone ever gets prosecuted for such a crime, unless the person is charged with other significant crimes as well. 





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