The Central government’s latest order to ISPs – to block access to child-porn websites only and not any others – is couched in such insipid language that the ISPs have refused to comply with the order until the government’s intentions are clarified. On Wednesday, the Internet Service Providers Association of India is set to approach the Ministry of Communications and IT and seek definitions of pornography in general and child pornography in particular – as well as seek directions on how to ascertain if pornographic artists are over 18 years of age.
On August 4, Medianama reported that the government’s order to the ISPs contained the phrase, “The intermediaries are free not to disable any of the 857 URLs which do not have child pornography”. As a result, ISPs are confused because the burden of work has been passed on to them – and they in fact become liable if a site they unblock is later found to contain child porn. The wishy-washy character of the order is also reflected in its use of double negatives where the government could just have said, “… the ISPs are free to unblock the URLs”.
The decision by ISPAI to work more closely with the government on the #PornBan is only the latest volley in a series of back-and-forths since 2013, when an Indore-based lawyer filed a PIL in the Supreme Court to block all access to online porn in the country. While Justice H.L. Dattu has refused to do that as it would violate people’s privacy, the court is currently hearing the petition. In the meantime, the erstwhile UPA-II government first said it would be too onerous a task to monitor and block all online porn in the country, then its succeeding NDA government announced its intention to effect a porn ban in September 2014, then lived up to its commitment on July 31, before finally issuing the ambivalent revocation order on August 4.