August 7, 2015

And then they banned porn!

Last week the Indian government banned porn on the web. And days later, it allowed ISPs (internet service providers, who give you internet) to un-ban porn sites.

We are at a loss to figure out why governments act so stupid. Is there nobody to tell them, banning porn – for that matter prostitution, liquor, even betting – are counter-productive. Instead of giving the claimed benefit to the society and individuals, bans harm the society in many more ways. But do governments listen?

In metropolitan cities of India, where porn CDs were selling for Rs. 50 (less than a dollar), these are reported to be selling for Rs.500.

Banning liquor in Gujarat, the state from which @Modi hails, has resulted in a huge parallel economy of smuggling and brewing spurious liquor. But without learning from such disasters, political parties last week launched a state-wide strike in another state, Tamil Nadu, in favour of prohibition.

Betting except horse-racing is banned in India, but it goes on without check. What the ban has resulted in is a hidden betting networks run by underworld dons and match-fixing.

IndianTopBlogs does not support alcoholism, vulgarity and other social deviations. We are aware that too much free and easy availability of inducement may lead to perversion. What we support is moderation, and ban is one of the worst mechanisms for achieving that.

Coming back to the web, which makes the topic relevant to us on this blog, the ban has been strongly criticised on the social media.

Papers are reporting that the ban has been lifted, because the IT Minister announced so in a press conference yesterday. When we checked it now, the ban was still on. Maybe, it is in the process.

The ban order was not public, but ISPs were asked to block 857 porn sites. However, the order is available here. Under public and media pressure, government allowed ISPs to un-ban sites except those purveying child porn.

The ban came in the wake of a Supreme Court observation that children have free access to porn sites. But the court itself did not pass an order to ban any porn site. Interestingly the government told the court, porn cannot be completely banned. The next hearing of the court is on 10th August.

We think, the ban is not very important for many reasons: it cannot be implemented; it will not last due to public pressure; it will not be supported by the court... But the ban is important as it resonates with the swift and excessive action that police has been taking against bloggers and other social media users for carrying even slightly critical posts against politicians. It is important as it comes after the ban by some states on beef eating and trade, and ban on Maggi noodles before fully establishing facts against it. It is important because the governments don’t even blink before imposing a ban on freedom of expression – that in the world’s largest democracy.


Update: On 10th August, the Supreme Court heard the case. Government's Attorney General had these pearls of wisdom to give, chastened by public ire against the ban: 
It’s question of a person’s right to speech and entertainment. State can't enter into people's bedrooms...Our government's commitment to freedom of speech and expression is total. We fully appreciate the great movement of the communication of ideas on social media...We cannot become a totalitarian state. Somebody wants to watch porn in the privacy of his room, can we prevent that?