Pornhub Set Up a Mirror Site to Get Around India’s Porn Ban

India revived an order that blocks pornographic websites, but users are working around it.

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Oct 30 2018, 1:48pm

Image via Shutterstock

As the Indian government moves to again censor pornographic websites, users are trying to work around the ban.

In 2015, the Indian government ordered the country’s internet service providers to block access to 857 websites that were found to host pornographic content, citing a threat to morality and decency. After uproar on social media from citizens, as well as confusion and resistance from ISPs themselves, India’s Ministry of Electronics and IT reversed the order less than one week later.

In early October 2018, India’s Uttarakhand High Court reinstated that ban—with a few adjustments. It reviewed the list of sites and removed 30 websites that were deemed adult but not pornographic (including CollegeHumor and 9Gag), and made it optional for ISPs to leave sites that are free of child pornography unblocked, according to NDTV.

To get around any ISP blocks that were implemented, Pornhub’s set up a mirror website—a copy that replicates an existing site—at Pornhub.net.

“We saw the news coming out of India and the commotion it was causing on social media (Twitter, Reddit, etc.) and wanted to be proactive about supplying our fans with our content,” Corey Price, VP at Pornhub, told me in an email. “We know how often Indians peruse our site and wanted to act swiftly.”

As of 2017, India was Pornhub’s third highest-trafficking country, according to the Pornhub blog.

“It’s evident that the Indian government does not have a solution to a very serious and systemic problem in the country, and is using adult sites like ours as a scapegoat,” Price said in a press release. “This is apparent by the fact that they only banned large sites like Pornhub’s, and didn’t block thousands of risky porn sites that may contain illegal content. For the government to ban sites like ours that have compliant parental controls, a non-consensual take down page and a strict Terms of Service is a disservice to the people of India, who have become one of the largest connoisseurs of adult content.”

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As TorrentFreak notes, people in India are already looking for ways to maneuver around the ban, with Google searches for “VPN” on the rise. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, encrypt internet connections through a gateway, often giving the option to choose the location you want your connection to appear to come from. Pornhub launched its own VPN in May.

“Our VPN client VPNhub was/is definitely an option, but we understand that not all users have adopted this technology yet,” Price told me.

Like India, Nepal instituted a porn ban in September, citing prevention of violence against women as the justification. Following Nepal’s ban, porn site xHamster reported that its users seemed to be finding ways around the blockade regardless: Alex Hawkins, a spokesperson for the company, told me that initially, traffic from Nepal dropped, but within a week went back to almost the same number of users as before the ban.

“Unlike political bans, porn bans may have the opposite of the intended effect by pushing otherwise apolitical citizens into networks that bypass government blockades,” Hawkins said in an xHamster blog post about the UK’s Digital Economy Act of 2017, which requires ISPs to block adult websites unless customers opt out.

As we’ve seen similar adult content bans happen in China, Egypt and Iceland—and with laws like FOSTA/SESTA that target sexual speech in the US—blocking porn is often a misguided attempt at solving a much deeper cultural issue, such as violence against women, child pornography, or sex trafficking. Far-reaching, over-broad censorship against “adult” content only limits access to life-saving tools for sex workers, and creeps into sex education for teens.