The Indian government's effort to block citizens from watching pornography hasn't quite worked, according to website analytics data. On the contrary, overall consumption of internet porn may have increased over the past few months with traffic
shifting to other sites and the use of proxy servers.
Fifty-nine of the banned websites, data of which was shared by SimilarWeb, a web analytics company, received an average of 1.7 billion monthly visits before the ban and the figure dropped to 0.8 billion visits after the ban. However this drop has
been more than compensated for by visits to at least 441 other websites that are not banned. These websites together received an average of 0.6 billion monthly visits before the ban and two billion after the ban. Adding these together reveals
that monthly porn site visits increased from 2.3 billion to 2.8 billion as a result of the ban.
There are other factors also contributing to why the ban is not working.
First, at least 42% of the websites in the banned list (345 of the total 827) are still accessible on the internet if users write https instead of http in the web address. These accessible websites include the top three porn websites in India --
Xnxx, Xvideos and Pornhub.
Second, Indians are also accessing the banned porn websites through easily available proxy networks or virtual private networks (VPN) that hide their identity and location, and in turn let users bypass any such ban. A sudden surge in the number
of visits to some of the most popular proxy service websites makes this fact evident.
For instance, proxy site kproxy.com received 2.3 million visits from India in November, according to ComScore. This was more than twice its average of 0.9 million visits in the previous three months. The increased use of proxy services by porn
consumers in India is also evident from data on Google Trends, a tool that quantifies the popularity of search queries over time. The popularity of search terms like porn proxy, porn site proxy and porn vpn in India rose seven to 10 times in the
week the ban was announced.
Third, the list of the 827 websites that were banned does not cover a wide enough range of such sites. Among the 500 most visited porn websites in India, according to ComScore data, only 59 websites have been banned. Among the top 10, only five
have been blocked.
UK-based porn viewers seem to be filling their boots before the government's age check kicks in as traffic to xHamster rose 6% in 2018
According to xHamster's Alex Hawkins, the trend is typical of countries in which plans to block online pornography becomes national news. It seems the more you talk about it, the more people feel invested in it as a right, he said.
The government has promised a minimum of three months for industry and the public to prepare for age verification, meaning they are likely to come into force around Easter. However this is a little unfair to websites as the BBFC has not yet
established the process by which age verification services will be kitemarked and approved as promising to keep porn viewers identity and/or browsing history acceptably safe. For the moment websites do not know which services will be deemed
Countries that have restrictions already in place showed, unsurprisingly, a decline in visitors. Traffic from China fell 81% this year, which xHamster put down to the nation's ban on VPNs and $80,000 cash rewards for people who shopped sites
hosting illegal content, like porn.
Elsewhere, the report showed an increase in the number of female visitors to the site -- up 42% in the US and 12.3% worldwide -- a trend Hawkins predicted would continue into 2019.