The Internet has become an important part of our lives, such that we often forget that it has to it, a darker side. Coming to think of it, googling possibly provides answers to all of life’s questions – or at least, to all of life’s assignments, in academic terms. So, should there be a limit to the scope of the internet? The answer to this question is quite complex. From one point of view, the Internet should not have any limits or boundaries. We live in the age of ‘freedom of expression’, and every individual should have an equal access to the Internet. On the other hand, what if an individual uses the Internet in a manner that is obscene, or to put it bluntly, in a perverse fashion? This fact is something which is often ignored, or kept aside. In order to take this forward, I have attempted to analyze the issue of pornography, whether online, or accessed through other means. To begin with, typing the word pornography in a normal search engine does not lead to results which can be classified as distasteful, possibly because of the formal usage of the word. However, typing the colloquial usage of the term, i.e., ‘porn’, leads to results that are shocking and yet something, which is accepted. After all, urban Indian media has often portrayed pornography as being normal, and nothing to be ashamed about. As said by Shobhaa De, in the Hindustan Times Young India supplement ( Feburary 29, 2008), “The Internet revolution has provided limitless access to pornographic sites, but this exposure has only added to the confusion.” Where does one draw the line?
It becomes important here to look into the working of a porn site. A relatively decent porn site is usually a pay site, so the issue of the adolescent/pre-teen population indulging in pornography does not emerge to a large extent. And that is when one assumes that this segment of the population has no access to a credit card. The problem arises with the ‘free to view’ porn sites, which blatantly promote themselves through obscene visuals, and lure the viewer into the web of pornography. Apart from the relatively blatant medium of accessing pornography, there are many other dubious methods. Most of us must have come across communities promoting sleaze openly on social networking sites such as Orkut. This comes up even as spam on popular communities. Pornographic material may also invade ones private space through junk mail or spam through a legitimate e-mail server. It may surface while surfing popular online video sites, as well. This usually happens through intruding pop-ups. Another popular medium for online pornography and related information is cyber chatting or adult friendship sites. These are forums for a lot of sleaze. The easy accessibility of webcams, to everyone from adolescents to adults, only adds to the problem. Numerous cases of young people being tricked into compromising situations on webcams, have become common. Emergence of sex-tapes of popular figures adds further to the debate. This trend increased with Paris Hilton’s sex tape (‘A night in Paris’), which was easily available on the Internet. It is a well known fact that ‘porn’ movies are easily available in the national capital, and can be accessed without much trouble. The labour class tend to watch these films in makeshift theatres, and local cable operators often showcase such films at night. Hence, as is visible, the issue doesn’t end at urban population, but goes far beyond. The issue of morality is also highlighted, with varied opinions. If pornography is legalized, will its viewers be able to access it openly? Or will it only anger the moral police, and lead to unnecessary complications? This debate is only going to become increasingly important in the days to come, and with increasingly intricate circumstances. As per India’s Cyber Laws, Publishing of Information, which is obscene in an electronic form, is a punishable offence, with a fine of upto Rs. 2 lakhs, and carries with it an imprisonment term of ten years. (Indian Information Technology Act 2000, Chapter XI Para 67). In the end, I will leave you with a statistic. “The porn business is estimated to total between $10 billion and $14 billion annually in the United States” (Frank Rich, Naked capitalists, The NYT, May 20, 2001) Think about it.