India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has ordered ISPs to block 39 websites. Although aimed primarily at porn sites and web forums where explicit material is exchanged, image and file hosting sites have also been banned.
‘It has been decided to immediately block the access to the following URLs… you are accordingly directed to immediately block the access to above URLs’. This is the notice sent to ISP’s, and rather worryingly it also instructs them; ‘kindly do not mention the name of URLs in the compliance letter’. The reason for this coyness over publicizing which websites have been blocked is not readily apparent, but displays an unsettling trend towards lack of transparency.
Also somewhat worrying is that India has no laws regarding blocking pornographic internet content. The DoT claims that it simply acted in compliance with a Court Order, which followed a petition filed by Indore-based advocate Kamlesh Vaswani, calling for restrictions on access to obscene videos on the internet.
Somewhat inexplicably, the popular web address shortening service Adfl.ly is included on the list. While it is true that many use its service to shorten links to explicit content, Adf.ly is simply a tool, and one used for number of perfectly legitimate and harmless reasons.
Users in India wishing to bypass the block can either use a VPN service (of course!) or by simply changing their links from http://adf.ly/abcd to https://adf.ly/abcd. It is our understanding that this will not payment if your link is clicked on.