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Not for the first time, the Modi government asked all internet service providers to ban hundreds of pornsites and not for the first time, ordinary Indians who are supposedly the world’s third largest consumers of adult online content have found a way to still surf the net for their favourite stuff.

The government order followed the Uttarakhand high court taking suo motu cognisance of media reports on the alleged gang rape of a 16-year-old girl at a boarding school in Dehradun to stress that “unlimited access to pornographic sites should be curbed to avoid adverse influence on the impressionable minds of children. Children are not safe even in educational institutions… They are sexually abused, exploited and assaulted… as per reports, these boys watched porn movies and called the minor girl to the storeroom where she was sexually assaulted.”

The court also directed the Centre to suspend the licences of those internet service providers under Section 25 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. The notification listed over 800 websites and directed internet service providers to block access to them as the contents posted on these websites “infringed morality and decency”. Consequently, Department of Telecommunications (DoT) ordered all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to implement a ban against 827 porn websites on October 27, 2018.

But people have already found ways around the ban. Specifically, they are being able to use Alibaba’s UC Browser to open porn sites on the Jio network. UC Browser is the same app that was under the lens for leaking Indian user data last year. UC Browser is the second most used web browser in India after Google Chrome.

Porn sites have always found ways to get around the order. Pornhub, one of most popular porn portals changed its URL for its Indian users and other major sites are also expected to follow suit. People are also using proxy websites like Anonymouse to circumvent the ban.

Porn websites are the some of the most trafficked in the world, and Indians are the third largest consumers of porn, just behind the US and UK. A report earlier this year said the total traffic visited was 28.5 billion which is 81 million visits per day. When the government tried to ban porn sites for in November 2014, it had to be withdrawn within a week. The reason was not hard to guess: the bulk of online traffic in India is driven by porn websites, and the ban was harming telecom operators.

The last time when porn sites were banned in India shortly after the Modi government came to power, one of the largest porn portals in a statement told Indians to be more more careful while voting for your government next time. It is to be seen if the advice will be heeded by the world’s third largest porn loving community.

—India Legal Bureau

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