What porn ban? A 400% rise in VPN downloads in India shows where there’s a will there’s a way

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India-Porn-Ban

Despite the porn ban, it hasn’t been a dry year in India.

Mobile downloads of virtual private network (VPN) apps in India grew 405% to 57 million in the 12 months starting October 2018, when India banned hundreds of porn websites, according to data from Apple’s App Store and Google Play analysed by London-based Top10VPN, a website that reviews VPNs.

VPNs allow users to mask their location and browse the internet more securely.

In October last year, an Indian court had ordered the government to reinstate its earlier ban on 827 porn websites including PornHub and xVideos. Porn companies initially put up a fight, launching mirror URLs such as pornhub.net after pornhub.com became inaccessible. But a few months in, major internet service providers Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio also started blocking out the mirror URLs.

Indians, though, are having none of it. From October to December 2018, monthly mobile VPN downloads in India increased by 66% on average, Top10VPN said. Google searches for VPN in India surged immediately after the ban was imposed, and have remained above their usual levels, also buoyed by spikes during Indian elections in April and May.

Google searches for “vpn” in India.

The vast majority of users in India are using “free” VPN services, which are in effect not free—they often fund operations by selling user data. But the use of paid VPN services remains limited in India.

But not all Indian users have caught on to VPNs.

Nearly half of the visitors of the banned websites have merely shifted to other adult content sites that aren’t blocked in the country, such as RedPorn and SexVid, according to research from the analytics firm SimilarWeb.