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Indian govt blocks 40 smut sites, forgets to give reason

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The Indian government has ordered ISPs to block 39 smut flick web sites hosted outside the country without giving any explanation, stoking further fears of online censorship by the back door.

Most of the sites are web forums and so allow for the uploading of naughty images and URLs where smut-seekers can download their grumble flicks, according to Times of India.

However, the sites claim to operate under the 18 USC 2257 rule, meaning actors are (supposedly) over 18 years of age, and there is apparently no indication from the Department of Telecom's order why ISPs are being asked to comply.

The message greeting web users who try to visit a blocked site now reads as follows:

This website has been blocked until further notice either pursuant to court orders or on the directions issued by the Department of Telecommunications.

While the law, updated in 2011, does forbid production, transmission and sharing of smutty content in India - therefore requiring internet cafes, for example, to block such content - there is no ban on consumption, especially from sites hosted outside India.

Sunil Abraham, director of Indian not-for-profit the Centre for Internet and Society, told ToI that the government is probably interpreting the law to serve its own ends, and that its ISP order “is a clear overreach”.

The Union government has certainly been quick in the past to order blocks on any content deemed inappropriate.

Facebook and Google were forced to remove “objectionable content” from their Indian sites last year after complaints it was offensive to Muslims, Hindus and Christians.

The government was also one of many across the globe to force Google to block notorious YouTube video Innocence of Muslims.

A controversial anti-piracy ruling last June, meanwhile, led to a clumsy, large-scale block on a number of legitimate sites in the country – drawing the ire of hacktivist group Anonymous.

The government also closed hundreds of sites and social media accounts in August last year in a bid to prevent the escalation of sectarian violence across the country.

In fact, the number of content removal requests received by Google increased by 90 per cent from July-December 2012 compared with the previous six months.

For these reasons, India only enjoys “Partly Free” status, according to the Freedom on the Net 2012 report from not-for-profit Freedom House. ®

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