India has ordered internet service providers to block access to more than 850 adult websites in what the government has described as a way to protect social decency, media reports say.

NN Kaul, a spokesperson for India’s telecoms department, said on Monday that the government was trying to control easy access to pornography following a directive from the country’s Supreme Court.

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Kaul said that while ISPs in India will have to bar access, users may still view the sites through virtual private networks and proxy servers.

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He said the move would protect children.

The leaked government order, dated last Friday, asks ISPs to block access to the 857 sites on grounds of morality and decency.

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While the government initially denied any such decision, the Times of India newspaper, quoting government sources, reported that the denial of access was a temporary one, and more of a prelude to the creation of a regular regulatory oversight.