The Porn Ban-Dilemma Unresolved

14 sept

There was a media controversy raised recently about the ban imposed by the Government of India on 857 websites supposedly carrying pornographic content.  However, the backlash of protests generated by a section of the society forced the Government to backtrack on its decision and apologetically suggest that they only wanted sites carrying child pornography content was desired to be banned.

The opponents to the ban were emboldened by a recent observation made by the Supreme Court that an adult watching porn is a right of personal liberty granted under article 21 of our constitution. Since “Freedom of Speech” is a touchy subject, the Government did not have the gumption to stand by its earlier decision.

In the meantime a section of the public justified porn content based on the age old argument that India is the home of Kamasutra, there are temple carvings  and Khajuraho paintings which are also a depiction of pornographic content etc. Some went to the extent of publishing a step by step guideline on how to access dark web and view all banned content.

Yet another section came up with the argument that it is futile to ban porn stuff on the internet since such ban cannot be effectively implemented.

I would like to counter all these three arguments and also contend, why banning of open access of pornographic web content is necessary and also how the carnal desires of the adults who want to watch porn stuff can still be satisfied.

Firstly, it is only fashionable to speak of “Freedom of Expression” as there is no unlimited freedom in a society. I challenge the Courts to remove the “Contempt of Court” provision from the statutes before the honourable courts speak of freedom of speech for everything else. They will not do so since they would contend that this is the redline that cannot be crossed.  In India, terrorists and their sympathizers have freedom of expression to display ISIS flags and raise pro Pak slogans but an ordinary citizen cannot dare criticising any judicial authority.

Like the right to privacy, right to freedom of expression is always moderated by the counter rights of other members of the society to be protected against the adverse impact of the general right to privacy and freedom of expression. Hence the right to watch pornographic content on the Internet can be rightfully banned by the Government if it is considered essential in the interest of the society.

Apart from the reason to protect the minors from exposure to undesirable content, the need to ban pornographic content stems from the fact that pornographic content is often used as a carrier of viruses and Trojans. Pornographic content is therefore a serious information security risk. It is not for nothing that from times immemorial exploitation of sexual instincts has been a way of corruption and spying. It is a human weakness which can be and will be exploited by virus writers to drop Trojans.

The availability of pornographic sites is also an incentive for some criminal elements to simply circulate the pictures of innocent girls to a porn site for revenge. In the past there have been instances of failed lovers adopting such tactics to stall the marriages of their girlfriends. Just as in the physical world girls are abducted and sold to brothels, pictures sometimes taken with consent and sometimes without are used to harm the reputation of girls. The famous case of Dr L Prakash is a case in point.

The case for regulating the porn content is therefore well  made out in the interest of securing the society.

The argument that such content is available in temple art etc. is a weak excuse since the media of communication is different. What the Government attempted to ban is the content which can be accessed by any person over a mobile and not a content exposed to a person who specifically undertakes the tour of Khajuraho. The impact that the Khajuraho art or temple art can have on the viewer is different from what the porn content on the internet can have.

Now let us come to the question of futility of banning. Today there are more viruses on the prowl than pornographic websites. If we can have a mechanism to identify and stop viruses as a continual exercise, a similar work can also be done by creating a reference data base of banned websites and routing all internet requests through them. This will ofcourse be nothing different from the DNS servers which need to be consulted before any request for a URL can be serviced by an ISP. Hence it is incorrect to say that it is technically infeasible to monitor the pornographic websites. In the society we keep battling the smoking and drinking menace where similar challenges are available and are met.

Now coming to the right of those who want to watch porn, I suggest that Government can create a mechanism where by a person can be granted a “Green Card” to view porn stuff based on his submitting a request and evidence that he is an adult. Let all members of the society who consider it as their right to freedom and liberty identify themselves to the ISP’s system and obtain a suitable access permission. Since the permission will be specific to the person to whom it is granted, any sharing of the password will be considered as illegal and trigger an offence under Section 66C/66D of ITA 2008.

In summary therefore we can say that there is a reasonable ground to believe that free and unrestricted availability of pornographic content on the internet is harmful to the society and this section of the society has its own right to be protected by a Government ban. At the same time there is no need to curb the freedom of others who may seek and be granted specific “Adult Content Viewing License” which may be linked to the Aadhar ID or a Bank ID of a person. In order to make it technically easy for implementation of the filtering mechanism, all adult content should be offered only through special TLD such as .xxx or .xxx.in and provision of such content under other TLDs should be considered as a violation of the regulation.

Hopefully such a measure will once for all end the dilemma of the Porn Ban.

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