The Department of Telecommunications in a discreet order on July 31 asked Internet service providers to block access to 857 websites, including humour site 9GAG and CollegeHumor as well as Playboy, citing the threat to public morality.

"The government is directing Internet service providers as an interim measure to disable porn sites featuring child pornography. Other considerations will be looked into after court hearing," a top-level source said.

The order was criticised as censorship and sparked raging debate on social media and other platforms, following which Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad took a high-level review meeting yesterday.

After the meeting, which was attended by IT Secretary R S Sharma and Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, Prasad said it was decided that ISPs would be immediately asked not to block those sites which do not contain any pornographic material.

"The instant action is basically in obedience to the observation of the Supreme Court where the court asked the department to take action on the list of alleged porn sites provided by the petitioner," he said explaining the rationale behind the original directive.

DoT in the order asked for 'disablement' of URLs of 857 websites under the provision of section 79(3)(b) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 "as the content hosted on these websites related to morality, decency as given in Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India."

It asked contents of the letter to be kept confidential. Prasad said that the government is committed for freedom of communication on the Internet.

"The government compliments the dissemination of idea on the social media. We have launched the mygov platform seeking views of people of India on developmental agenda and lakhs of people are participating on this platform," he said.
     
Reacting to the outrage against the move, Prasad, yesterday, had said, "I reject with contempt the charge that it is a Talibani government, as being said by some of the critics. Our government supports free media, respect communication on social media and has respected freedom of communication always."

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