India Blocks 857 Websites Citing Pornography’s Threat to Decency

India ordered Internet service providers to block access to 857 pornographic and humor websites citing the threat to public morality in the world’s second-most populous country.

Among those listed by the Department of Telecommunications are humor site 9GAG, CollegeHumor and Playboy, according to a copy of the order posted by the Centre for Internet and Society. ISPs were told to immediately confirm compliance with the order, which also mentioned websites Barstool Sports and Adult Friendfinder.

The ban comes after a lawyer petitioned the Supreme Court to block sites featuring pornography on grounds that they fueled crimes against women and children and were a threat to public order. India has the world’s second-largest number of Internet users with about 350 million people accessing the Web on personal computers and mobile devices.

Saurabh Kumar, additional private secretary to the Minister for Communications & Information Technology, confirmed the government has requested ISPs block the 857 websites as an interim measure.

“The Supreme Court said this is a serious issue and some steps need to be taken,” Kumar said. “The court observed that the sites had not been blocked even though the petitioner has asked for them to be blocked. So in view of that observation of the court, DoT acted on that.”

Idea Cellular Ltd., India’s second-largest publicly owned mobile-phone carrier, confirmed it received the government communication.

Of more than one million hits to Google Inc.’s mobile search sites, more than 1 in 5 were for pornography, according to Covenant Eyes, which analyzed the data. By 2017, more than 250 million people are expected to access adult content from their mobile devices, according to the group.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government fully supports freedom of expression and freedom of speech on social media, India’s Communications and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in March after the country’s highest court struck down a law that allowed prosecution for online content deemed offensive.

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