> Website Surfaces With Disturbing Photos and Manifesto Purportedly Written by Dylann Roof
> GOP Protesters Can’t Kill the Buzz as Clinton Promises Prosperity at Campaign Rally
> As Washington Mourns Beau Biden, Congress Considers Bill That Could Lead to New Cancer Treatments
> Visiting the Nepali Villages Struggling with Staggering Losses in Earthquake Aftermath
> Meet Priya, a Comic Superhero Fighting the Social Stigma of Rape in India
> Rubbing Out Internet Porn Won't Be Easy for the Indian Government
Website Surfaces With Disturbing Photos and Manifesto Purportedly Written by Dylann Roof
A website purportedly created by Charleston church shooting suspect Dylan Roof surfaced Saturday. The site contains numerous disturbing photographs of Roof, presumably from his personal collection, and a manifesto filled with racist language.
The site's URL is "lastrhodesian.com," an apparent reference to Rhodesia, the Apartheid-era white supremacist regime in what is now Zimbabwe. Rhodesia is admired by modern white supremacists, and the 21-year-old Roof was previously seen wearing a Rhodesian flag on his jacket in his Facebook profile photo.
VICE News could not independently confirm the authenticity of the website, which began circulating on social media Saturday morning.
A Reverse Whois search — a tool that provides information about web domain ownership — shows that "lastrhodesian.com" was registered to an administrator named Dylann Roof on February 2, 2015. The administrator registered with the address 10428 Garners Ferry Road, South Carolina, which is located about 20 miles east of Columbia, South Carolina. The site is set to expire on February 2, 2016.
A spokesman for the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) was not aware of the website's existence when contacted Saturday by VICE News, and declined to comment. An FBI spokesperson said the agency is not allowed to release any information about the site, but they are reportedly investigating.
The website's homepage features an image of actor Russell Crowe in the 1992 film Romper Stomper. The image shows Crowe's character lying dead and bloodied on a beach. Two links in plain white text are below the image, one labeled "Photos" and the other "Text."
The "Photos" link goes to a .zip file that contains 60 images. Many show Roof taking selfies, often glaring at the camera, and others show him at the Confederate Soldiers Cemetery and the Sacred Burial Site of African Ancestors. One image appears to show Roof in his bedroom aiming his .45 caliber pistol at the camera. A separate standalone shot shows the pistol — the same caliber used in the Emanuel AME Chruch shooting —and seven bullets. Another menacing image in the collection shows Roof setting fire to the American flag.
Exif data analysis of the images shows that 33 of them are high resolution and were taken with a Kodak Easyshare Camera C1530. Roof can be seen holding what appears to be a Kodak camera of that model in one image. The remaining 26 images appear to have been modified and or downloaded from social media.
The "Text" link on the homepage directs users to a simple .txt file that contains a lengthy manifesto and racist screed. Containing several grammatical errors and misspellings, the manifesto begins with the author stating that he was not raised in a racist home or environment.
"Living in the South, almost every White person has a small amount of racial awareness, simply beause [sic] of the numbers of negroes in this part of the country. But it is a superficial awareness," it says.
The writing goes on to describe the event that "truly awakened" the author: the Trayvon Martin case.
"It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right," the document states, claiming it led the author to research "black on white crimes." The author claims to "have never been the same since that day," and states that "I can say today that I am completely racially aware."
The manifesto says the author delved into similar research on England, France, and other Western European countries, and found that "the situation is even worse there." This led him to examine several other communities, including Jews, Hispanics and East Asians. He calls Hispanics "enemies," and Jews an "enigma."
The document is filled with hateful language toward African-Americans, a group the author refers to as the "biggest problem for Americans."
"Niggers are stupid and violent," the document states. "At the same time they have the capacity to be very slick."
The author also calls black people "inferior."
"Even today, blacks are subconsciously viewed by White people are lower beings. They are held to a lower standard in general," the document says. "This is why they are able to get away with things like obnoxious behavior in public. Because it is expected of them."
The author also supports segregation, writing that it "was not a bad thing. It was a defensive measure. Segregation did not exist to hold back negroes. It existed to protect us from them."
The author justifies his actions by saying that the fear of black people leads "white parents" to move to the suburbs and send their children to "good schools." Under this premise, he talks about being an advocate for white people that are "left behind."
"And who is fighting for him? Who is fighting for these White people forced by economic circumstances to live among negroes? No one, but someone has to," the document states.
The manifesto goes on to talk about Apartheid in South Africa, and how whites and black are different, with white people having more a "unique culture" or "world culture."
"Negroes have lower Iqs, lower impulse control, and higher testosterone levels in generals," it says with typos typical of the work. "These three things alone are a recipe for violent behavior."
The author's views on patriotism are filled with hateful vitriol.
"I hate the sight of the American flag," he says. "Modern American patriotism is an absolute joke. People pretending like they have something to be proud while White people are being murdered daily in the streets."
Approximately 2,000 words long, the manifesto concludes with an attempt at an explanation.
"I have no choice," it says. "I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me."
Published on Vice News, June 20th, 2015
GOP Protesters Can’t Kill the Buzz as Clinton Promises Prosperity at Campaign Rally
A crowd of thousands cheered deafeningly as Hillary Clinton delivered the first major speech of her second campaign for president at an outdoor campaign rally Saturday on New York City's Roosevelt Island. But just down the road, a different sort of crowd was gathered under the shade of a tree, chanting "Stop Hillary," "Hillary is shady," and several rounds of "GOP, GOP, GOP."
The Republican-organized "Stop Hillary" campaign leaders were mostly young, in their 20s, and carrying printed signs that appropriated Clinton's signature "H" followed by the letters "ypocrisy."
At least one Clinton supporter flashed his middle fingers at the anti-campaigners as he left the park.
"Hillary Clinton's announcement speech was chock full of hypocritical attacks, partisan rhetoric and ideas from the past that have led to a sluggish economy leaving too many Americans behind," Republican National Committee spokeswoman Allison Moore said. "Next year, Americans will reject the failed policies of the past and elect a Republican president."
But Clinton has other plans, and a message that may resonate with voters from the middle and working classes. As a "Hillz 4 Prez" banner fluttered alongside American flags waving across the blue New York cityscape, she hailed a new era of shared prosperity in America, promising to fiercely advocate for workers left behind after the recession.
"It's America's basic bargain," Clinton said. "If you do your part, you ought to be able to get ahead, and when everybody does their part, America gets ahead too. That bargain inspired generations of American families, including my own."
Alan O'Grady, an office assistant from Manhattan, told VICE News that Clinton's "fighting spirit" came out in her speech today. The former secretary of state and first lady championed American workers, as well as equal rights for women and gay people.
"Her moving to the left makes me a happy person," O'Grady said. "When she was in the fight with Obama, it was her fighting spirit which really made me stick with her."
The Clinton campaign said that her "tenacious fighter" message would form the foundation of the 2016 White House race. Clinton also signaled her intention to campaign on the prospect that she would be the first woman elected to the White House.
She started her speech expressing her joy to be "in a place with absolutely no ceilings," and ended by saying she wanted join with her supporters to build a country where a father can tell his daughter she can grow up to be anything, "even president of the United States."
"I have been called many things by many people," Clinton said. "Quitter is not one of them."
Clinton's husband, former president Bill Clinton, and her daughter Chelsea also appeared at the rally, the first time the family had been seen together in public since Clinton began her campaign in April.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Published on Vice News, June 13th, 2015
As Washington Mourns Beau Biden, Congress Considers Bill That Could Lead to New Cancer Treatments
Beau Biden, the former state attorney general of Delaware and the eldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, died last Saturday at age 46 after a battle with brain cancer. Today, a crowd of around 1,000 people — including President Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and several other leading American political figures — gathered for the funeral at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Washington, DC.
While officials have not revealed the type of brain cancer that resulted in Beau Biden's death, the loss comes as Congress considers the 21st Century Cures Act, a piece of legislation that experts say could lead to new treatments for brain tumors and other types of cancer.
Sally Davis, CEO of the National Brain Tumor Society, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the pace of drug discovery and development, wrote an editorial last week for The Hill urging Congress to approve the bill, which she said could "jumpstart new treatments for brain tumors and many other cancers while optimizing the FDA's approval process."
The House Energy and Commerce Committee recently passed the legislation with a unanimous 51-0 vote. Representative Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan and the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, has said the bill will speed up the cumbersome clinical trials needed to get FDA approval for new types of drugs and treatments. Upton said the proposal would get rid of "unnecessary paperwork" that "wastes time and money."
"Clinical trials are slow and expensive," Upton wrote in early May. "In fact, their cost and time to completion are at all-time highs. While there has been a number promising advancements, our current regulatory structure does not fully embrace the potential of personalized medicine."
Asked about the impact that Beau Biden's death might have on the 21st Century Cures Act, Upton told VICE News that he and Joe Biden have discussed the legislation previously, and that the vice president supports it.
"My heart breaks for the vice president as he mourns the loss of his son," Upton said. "Vice President Biden is a friend and a leader. He and I have spoken about the 21st Century Cures initiative, and we both understand this bill, this conversation, is something that will help deliver hope to all patients and their loved ones. The vice president has had to deal with too much grief. I look forward to working with him and finishing the hopeful work of 21st Century Cures."
Representative Diana DeGette, a Democrat from Colorado who co-authored the bill, has said it would provide "billions in support for our premier research and development institutions and comprehensive reform of our systems."
Nearly 23,000 adults will be diagnosed with primary brain cancers this year, according to Cancer.net, a website of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death in children under 14. People diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and aggressive form of primary malignant brain tumor, typically survive less than 15 months.
Critics have taken issue with the portions of the legislation devoted to the development of new drugs. According to the Wall Street Journal, language in one section would allow the FDA to approve additional uses for drugs without having to rely on randomized controlled trials.
"We don't know what will happen," Thomas Moore, senior scientist at the Institute for Safe Medicine Practices, a non-profit that tracks drug safety issues, told the Journal. "Will it open the door to a wholesale reworking of clinical trial requirements? They are pushing the FDA to consider types of evidence that's not been previously regarded as reliable enough."
Even without the help of the 21st Century Cures Act, scientists are closing in on groundbreaking new treatments that have the potential to revolutionize the way doctors fight cancer. In February, VICE on HBO broadcast "Killing Cancer," a special report that focused on the way viruses such as measles and HIV are being used to attack cancer cells and shrink tumors. The episode also helped generate more than $2 million in cancer research donations.
According to theWashington Post, Beau Biden received traditional forms of treatment after his initial cancer diagnosis in August 2013, undergoing surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. He was able to return to work in November 2013. As a major in the Delaware National Guard and an Iraq War veteran, when Biden's cancer recurred this spring he received treatment at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate adopted resolutions expressing sorrow over Beau Biden's death. According to the Associated Press, the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, established last week to continue his efforts to protect children from sexual predators, has already received more than 1,100 donations totaling roughly $175,000.
Published on Vice News, June 6th, 2015
Visiting the Nepali Villages Struggling with Staggering Losses in Earthquake Aftermath
VICE News is on the ground in Nepal, here reporting from Melchour, Chautara, and Lamosanghu villages in the Sindhupalchowk district, northeast of the country's capital, Kathmandu.
Approximately three hours from the center of Kathmandu, via the Arniko Highway toward China, is the Himalayan district of Sindhupalchowk, where the death toll from Saturday's 7.8 magnitude earthquake has exceeded that of the capital. The forlorn shantytowns within the sprawling district are scattered over the confusing rugged terrain and meandering narrow roads, drastically hampering rescue and relief efforts as crews scramble to reach the area. But in its sixth day of the disaster, the obvious lack of government-coordinated assistance has left the communities in Melchour village and the district headquarters of Chautara disillusioned and indignant, their patience hanging by a shoestring.
"This is the first time someone has even come and asked us if we are okay," Ghoma Lana told VICE News as she wiped the tears from her wrinkled face and walked toward the remnants of her house — a debris of rubble, bricks, and aluminum panels. The stench of rotting carrion, feces, smoke, and grass wafted through the air as she pointed to a small hut where she and her husband have put up a picture of their 24-year-old daughter Srijana, a school teacher who died instantly when their house crumbled.
While most in the small village of Melchour had to dig up trapped and dead cattle with their bare hands, so that they could sleep on the streets without the overpowering smell, others have flocked to a nearby school where blankets lay carelessly strewn. "When they want votes, they flock to us. But no one cares that we have lost our identity and sense of belonging," said Anrit, as he elaborated that the constituent assembly member for the village has not even made one phone call to inquire on the scale and scope of need.
About three miles farther in the district headquarters of Chautara, the loss is staggering. Mudhouses groan under the weight of bricks, and concrete structures tilt precariously over the hill. Krishna and his wife are hastily packing a few surviving belongings into large polythene bags and moving to the encampment above in the Chautara Maidan, where a makeshift health clinic is operating with the help of the Nepali army and the district public health office. "Local Nepali media has not even bothered to come here, how do we communicate to international journalists what we are going through?" said Krishna, as he angrily motioned with his hands.
To address this important issue of accessing the needs of the people on the ground so as to deploy coordinated and organized help in a systematic way, Dr. Tshering Lama, director of Childreach Nepal, and Lokesh Todi, entrepreneur and member of the Global Shapers NGO's Kathmandu hub, have come together to jointly map out a clear disaster relief action plan. "We want to add value, so we sent out a team of volunteers by dirt bikes to decipher the real problems on ground. There is only so much overhead helicopters can discern," said Todi.
Based on the initial response from the team, both Todi and Lama have brought in water purification tablets, tents, rehydration medicine, and diarrhea tablets to distribute to the health camp in Chautara. They've also managed to procure solar power generation so it can be installed with the help of an engineer and technician in the nearby Melamchi health camp. "It's vital for a health camp to have light and mobile charging points," said Subhash Pandey, from Gham Power, which has donated solar panels, battery backups, and other installation materials worth $3,000.
About a third of a mile ahead, in the Chautra makeshift encampment, Dr. Sagar Rajbhandari, chief of the medical team from the district public health office, sits cross-legged on an orange mat under a tarpaulin blue tent and emphasizes the pressing need of the hour — clean water. "I'm trying to educate people to filter and boil water as water-borne diseases will definitely lead to an epidemic," he said. While UN Habitat is planning to send in water purifiers, Rajbhandari feels a tanker with chlorinated water could definitely help. "There is open defecation here and people are relying on rain water. They are drinking that same water they use to clean themselves," he adds.
Meanwhile, Bharat Shresta, from UNDP Nepal, said that food, water, and even shelter needs to be made priorities, adding that the people of Chautara are incensed and feel they are being ignored. "Agni Sapkota, a constituent assembly member, came by helicopter to examine the situation and people started throwing stones at him and he needed to be rescued by the army," Shresta told VICE News. There is a clear frustration among the people as the army camp's limited relief commodities are not being distributed in a cohesive manner.
"My friend got two packets of biscuits, and I just got one packet of noodles," said Naani Karki as she paced outside a tent designated to treat the elderly and the hurt. The lack of continuity or structure has prompted Childreach and Global Shapers to come up with a plan where they are planning on making the Melamchi army barracks into an information, collection, and disbursement point from where donated aid can then be divided among villages.
"If you don't have a well thought out ground presence, then even a good intention can go wrong at a time like this," said Lama. While his initial plan via Childreach is to focus on families for now, he wants to rebuild the destroyed schools so that the children are not exploited or trafficked at this vulnerable stage.
"The children are suffering the most as they play in the rubble and are prone to mosquitoes and malaria," said Urgen Tamang, the 29-year-old principal of a children's school in Lamosanghu village, which is about an hour away from Chautara. He's grateful that the earthquake struck on a Saturday when kids were at a picnic. Originally from Darjeeling, India, he pointed to the turquoise and white wreckage in the distance by the water, mere vestiges of the school he used to consider his home. "I will leave. I know everyone, but have no one to support me," he said sadly.
With the cash-strapped government, and an array of problems including sustainable rebuilding to housing, health, water, sanitation, food, and medical relief structures, Nepal's long route to recovery has only just begun.
"I only hope that my mother doesn't die with this vision of her country in her head and my 5-year-old son isn't forced to grow up with this image," said 35-year-old Usha Tomang, her expression swinging from hope to utter despair as she sees her son picking up a stone and putting in his mouth.
This article was supported by the International Reporting Project.
Published on Vice News, May 1st, 2015
Meet Priya, a Comic Superhero Fighting the Social Stigma of Rape in India
In India, women victimized by sexual violence and rape are typically stigmatized and socially ostracized, compounding their trauma. Unjustly shamed, everything from their morals to their conduct is called into question.
But what if the narrative were to change? A woman vanquishes her fears and dismisses the ridicule, speaking out as a survivor and becoming an inspiration to thousands of women in India who have faced the same ordeal — a modern-day female superhero.
This is the story of Priya, the protagonist of a first-of-its-kind Indian comic book created to target the country's gender-based sexual violence. The brainchild of Indian-American filmmaker Ram Devineni, Priya's Shakti is an imaginative reaction to an alarming apathy among the authorities and public toward the issue of rape. Devineni witnessed this disconnect first-hand while participating in the protests that followed the 2012 brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student from Delhi.
"A police official suggested that the girl perpetrated the attack by walking home alone late at night," he recalled to VICE News.
Horrified, Devineni was moved to devise a comic book whose alternative storyline would defy India's overarching misogynistic and patriarchal views and help redefine attitudes and beliefs toward sexual violence against women. He worked with the poet Vikas K. Menon and artist Dan Goldman on a simple concept: combining potent Indian mythology with the accessibility of popular culture to connect with readers and promote social change.
Priya, a devotee of Parvati, the Hindu goddess of fertility, is raped and rejected by her family and neighbors. The goddess learns of her suffering and is appalled by the abuse women face on earth. She empowers Priya through Shakti — a manifestation of divine feminine energy. Parvati's husband, the great Hindu god Shiva, loses faith in mankind and condemns it to infertility for its crimes.
A divine war threatens the fate of the world until Priya embodies the spirit of women across time, captivating the public and redeeming humanity by imparting female equality across the land.
"In India, Hindu iconography is everywhere," Devineni said. He maintained the ancient philosophy of Goddess Parvati being the awakening light — both for Shiva, a male who empathizes with Priya, and for Priya to tap into her own strength and be a catalyst for female empowerment and change. "We subverted the usual image of Goddess Durga astride a tiger by placing our heroine, a mortal woman, on it."
Readers have downloaded Priya's Shakti more than 200,000 times since its worldwide release last December, and launched an accompanying social media campaign, #standwithpriya. The comic is credited with encouraging a debate about sexual assault in India, and Devineni has been honored as a gender equality champion by UN Women, an organization that champions women's rights, in observance of its impact.
"Last year, people across India endorsed sexual violence as a pivotal issue, ranking ending violence against women second in a survey asking them what matters most," Oisika Chakrabarti, senior communications and media specialist for UN Women, told VICE News. "There is an urgent need to invest heavily in the prevention and response to the pandemic of violence against women in India, as well as globally."
Now the comic's creators are determining how to develop an even bigger audience.
"The concern is that the book could speak to Hindus, but perhaps we also need other idioms to address those of minority religions who might not be comfortable with the 'divine is within us all' message," Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, told VICE News. "I think that perhaps that kind of message takes away somewhat from the central issue — that we should respect all humans as humans, not for divine essence, but for human essence."
Lina Srivastava, a strategist working with Devineni on the comic's social impact, told VICE News that they hope the ubiquity of the images in India and the empowerment narrative will help its message register with non-Hindus.
"We purposely avoided preaching Hinduism," Devineni noted. He's encouraged that only about 60 percent of the comic's readers are within India, with many others located in Europe and the Americas — a reach that suggests the possibility of a wider series.
"In future stories, Priya will travel to countries and address other social issues, but the focus will remain on gender-based violence," he said. "Forthcoming books will not always be structured around Hinduism."
An innovative aspect of Priya's Shakti's publicity is its use of augmented reality. Users who scan the comic book or one of its many promotional murals on the streets of Mumbai with the Blippar app can unlock animation, videos, interactive links, and comments in various vernacular languages. Though this new media factor has struck a chord with urban youth who have access to smartphones and tablets, and who can easily view the comic book online, managing outreach in India's rural areas has been a challenge.
"To address this very real problem, the comic book can work as a standalone printed book, where readers can appreciate and understand the story without the augmented reality elements," Devineni explained.
Engagement efforts are being tailored accordingly.
"We are in the process of negotiating with various state governments like Rajasthan, Bihar, and Delhi to incorporate the comic book into the curriculum of 10- to 12-year-olds in municipal and other government schools," Ruchira Gupta, founder of Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an anti-sex trafficking nonprofit that has partnered with the Priya's Shakti project, told VICE News. Gender sensitization should begin as early as possible, she added, noting that the effectiveness of the comic in fostering this can be closely tracked in an educational setting.
There are also attempts to get corporations like Vodafone to sponsor bulk purchases of the printed copies, which are more expensive than usual because of the glossy pages, and plans to translate the comic into Hindi and Marathi.
Advocates hope the comic's success will spur a broader literary campaign to combat the abuse of women.
"We need more stories that can address caste violence against women, violence by the police and army against women, as well as sexual violence inside marriage," said Krishnan. "Only then can it really serve as a dialogue with people at large."
Published on Vice News, February 9th, 2015
Rubbing Out Internet Porn Won't Be Easy for the Indian Government
An Indian housewife clad scantily in a sari boasts about her raunchy exploits and sexual escapades with her friends. She invites her neighbor to share the shower with her, and goes on to have steamy trysts with a gardener, a grocery vendor, and the cable guy.
Though this scenario might sound like an Indian remake of Desperate Housewives, Savita Bhabhi is the heroine of an online Indian comic strip conceived along the lines of Japanese manga, full of titillating content and explicit illustrations. Launched in 2008 and banned by the Indian government the following year, the strip soon resurfaced under a different domain name and continues to operate and be widely accessible to anyone browsing the net.
After the web comic was banned, amused observers took to identifying Savita Bhabhi as India's first internet porn star.
You might think the country that produced the Kama Sutra would be a little less conservative about sexuality, particularly as it concerns an adult-themed cartoon, but officials are at it again. Following the Indian Supreme Court's admission last year of a public interest litigation filing that sought a blanket ban on online pornography, the government has been cracking down on obscene content and preparing an attempt to block internet porn nationwide.
While this has prompted concern over freedom of expression and censorship, whether the government's gambit is even technologically feasible remains an open question.
Telecom and IT Minister Ravi Shankar recently remarked to the Economic Times that, although porn is legal in some countries, the issue should be seen in the "context of Indian culture and moral obligation towards society." Indian law prohibits the publication or transmission of "obscene" content. The disapproving Indian government is therefore now working closely with the Internet and Mobile Association of India, the Cyber Regulation Advisory Committee, and various internet service providers (ISPs) to tackle online smut.
"One needs to question with what prism you're looking at content that is considered obscene, as cyberspace is a very dense area and the term is loosely defined," Vivek Sheorey, the CEO of Sheorey Digital Systems, an Indian tech company, told VICE News. He noted the difficulty of consistently determining what material should be considered offensive, especially as it concerns the categorizing and flagging of websites. "In places like Europe and America, photos of people posing with low-cut jeans exposing their crack is okay. But in India, something like this may be marked as obscene."
Legal experts whom VICE News consulted echoed this point.
"There is a grey area between pornography and eroticism, and what is considered lascivious in nature," said Pavan Duggal, an Indian Supreme Court advocate who specializes in cyberlaw. But while Indian law specifically punishes the publication, creation, browsing, downloading, or exchanging of any depiction of children in an "obscene or indecent or sexually explicit manner," Duggal believes that there is still some legal ambiguity about the blacklisting of other material.
"The trouble lies in the identification," he noted.
Because many ISPs in India are small businesses that simply work to provide internet access to customers and have no authority to create, disseminate, or promote online content, it is hard for them to identify and monitor websites suspected of obscenity.
"Who will be the arbiter of whether something is pornographic or not? All kinds of material, from the Indian movie Fire to Wendy Doniger's book on the Hindus, could end up classified as pornographic depending on who is doing the classification," Chinmayi Arun, research director of the Center for Communication Governance at National Law University in Delhi, told VICE News. "This is a very real concern that ought to have been taken into account."
Another layer of difficulty is posed by the Indian government's request that ISPs upgrade their infrastructure and "blueprint" a porn-blocking system. For this reason, the government is having the Internet and Mobile Association of India step in and curate a list of all pornographic websites that are currently accessible in India, especially those dealing with child pornography. This master list will then be provided to ISPs, who will be legally bound to enact the mass blocking while somehow ensuring that the effort does not adversely affect internet access.
But the challenges from a technical standpoint don't end there.
"Blocking pornographic websites is an exercise in futility from the word go," Duggal said. "Given the intrinsic nature of the architecture of the internet, you cannot possibly block all sites, as there are so many indirect ways of circumventing blocked websites using proxies and VPNs [virtual private networks]."
Further complicating the government's efforts is the fact that these pornographic sites are overwhelmingly hosted outside of India's territory. Identifying and policing those distant servers is practically impossible, both technically and legally.
"If a pornographic website is being operated or hosted from overseas, then this becomes a jurisdiction issue with legal constraints," Sheorey explained, pointing out that because there is no internationally accepted policy covering the issue of pornography across the world, many Western countries have also failed to curtail web porn.
Milind Deora, a former Indian minister of telecom and IT, told VICE News that officials should base their course of action on the input of social scientists and experts.
"The present government's decision to ban adult porn in India should not be a knee-jerk one," he said.
Considering the many technical limitations facing the selective blocking of sites, as well as the danger posed to civil liberties by regulatory overreach, it would seem natural for the government to focus its resources on the more pressing concern of child pornography rather than pursue the quixotic task of imposing an all-encompassing porn prohibition.
"Politicians, bureaucrats, and judges must show restraint and not partake in moral policing," Deora stated. "However, child porn is undeniably undesirable, and the government must find ways of creating institutional and legal capacity to block it and enforce its ban."
Published on Vice News, November 10th, 2014