Can not ban child porn websites without proper legal backing – ISPs to SC

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ISPAI tells the Supreme Court that they only provide Internet access to customers and therefore, can’t ban websites promoting child porn without legal aid from the government or judiciary.

Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) on Monday explained to the Supreme Court that its member bodies can not ban websites promoting child pornography without adequate legal support from the government or judiciary.

While explaining its stand on the issue, ISPAI also stated that they were serving as mere conduits that provide Internet access to customers.

“ISPs neither create content of any sort, nor do they own, promote, modify or edit it. They are mere authorized service providers who provide customers access to internet. ISPs are mere conduits and they cannot be made liable for the contents they do not own. It would be akin to making liable telecom companies for conversations people have on their network,” they said.

ISPAI made this clarification in response to a PIL filed by Kamlesh Vaswani, an Indore-based advocate. In the PIL, Vaswani tried to highlight the menace caused by unrestricted circulation of child pornographic content on the Internet. He also urged that the free and abundant availability of pornographic content could be one of the main factors behind alarmingly rising cases of sexual violence against women in the country.

However, ISPAI expressed its inability to impose ban on such websites stating: “It is impossible for an ISP to block pornographic sites without orders from the court or department of telecom (DoT). While ISPs are legally bound to comply with all orders to block pornographic or other websites as suggested by DoT, the task of identifying such websites ought not to be left to ISPs who lack institutional and logistical capacity to do the identification.”

It’s important to note here that citing a clear-cut definition of pornography is extremely difficult. The accused party, in their defence, often classifies the objectionable content as artistic or literary work. ISPAI pointed out that such complications could eventually bring the member bodies amidst new legal controversies if they started banning child porn websites on their own.

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