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It has been 6 months since India banned more than 800 porn sites — but people are still using loopholes to get around it

Prabhjote Gill | Jan 7, 2019, 01.06PM IST

  • The Indian government directed the country’s Internet Service Providers to ban 827 porn sites but the master list of sites banned have not been made public.
  • The ban has been implemented on Jio’s network as well has BSNL, MTNL, Act Broadband and Airtel.
  • While the ban has already been implemented on Jio’s network, most sites are still accessible through Chinese mobile Internet company UCWeb’s UC Browser.
  • There are also other easy hacks like using HTTPS to access a website instead of WWW or HTTP.
  • Popular porn site Pornhub has even launched an altered URL so that Indian users can still access its catalogue.

India is attempting to crack down on porn yet again — but to no avail.

The country’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) ordered all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to implement a ban against 827 porn websites on October 27, 2018.

Jio was the first internet service provider (ISP) to implement the ban, with Airtel, BSNL, MTNL, and Act Broadband following shortly after. While the companies are using a ‘master list’ to implement the ban, that list hasn’t been made public yet.

And despite the Indian government’s best efforts, people have already found ways around it.

Skirting the law

People 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 also the second most used web browser in India after Google Chrome, according to StatCounter’s data, with a market share of more than 32%.

Users can even apply the Opera browser, which has a built-in VPN, to circumvent the government’s ban.

Even Pornhub, one of the most popular portals for watching porn according to Alexa’s most visited IPs in India, launched an altered URL so that its Indian users could still have access to the site.

Their vice president, Corey Price, has argued, “The ban could lead people to visit ‘risky porn sites’ that may contain illegal content.”

So using any method to get around the ban should be done at your own risk — like using HTTPS ahead of the site’s URL instead of HTTP and WWW. It’s probably the oldest hack in the book that came to light when torrent sites like ThePirateBay and KickassTorrents were blocked in India.

Using an alternate server — which can be easily changed by going into your computer’s ‘network settings’ — like the Google DNS servers instead of the ones prescribed to by the ISPs is more a more complicated way of navigating to the porn sites.

Not the first time

Porn websites are the some of the most trafficked in the world, and India is the world’s third largest porn-watching nation.

This is not the first time that the Indian government has attempted to take on internet porn. It tried to ban porn sites for the first time in November 2014. But rather than being limited to some 800 websites, it was a blanket ban on porn, with the government attempting to take on 40 million porn websites globally.

The current ban was filed in 2015 with 857 porn sites on the roster. But, it had to lifted in under a week.

The reason was simple: The bulk of online traffic in India is driven by porn websites, and the ban was harming telecom operators. In fact, porn drives as much as 70% of India’s website traffic, according to sources speaking to LiveMint.

Ahead of the 2019 Indian general elections, the government is taking a risky stance on the freedom of communication. The last time around, it was forced to not only lift the ban, but also come out against censorship.

For many Indians, this move by government is another in a long line of intolerant directives with the government cracking down on their freedom of expression.

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