Monday, August 2, 2010

A Countrywide Ban on Pornography

I saw this entry on my feed and it shouted at me like a screaming headline: "Indonesian ISPs Ordered To Ban All Porn In Just A Few Weeks." Apparently, the Indonesian Information and Communications Minister announced that his ministry would block all foreign and local porn sites. In the same announcement, he reminded people of the 6 to 12 year criminal sentence for distributing pornography, and the negative effects in proliferating such material.

Their deadline was the start Ramadan, which starts Aug.11. The fast-approaching deadline and the mammoth difficulty of the mandate is having ISP's shaking. The system is sought to be implemented using a keyword filtering system, the one being used by the Indonesian Government internally. As a concession, the Government extended the deadline to one month. Despite this extension, ISP's are still at a loss. Apparently, the government does not realize the technical implication of the task.

I tried to play with the Idea a little and just imagined that Indonesia might actually pull it off. I shivered in horror as I imagined an internet fully susceptible to filtering and censorship. I thought of all the valuable research data that would be beyond the grasp of ordinary internet users. On the other hand, i don't really fear internet censorship because of this wonderful thing called the anonymous proxy server.

Of course, in reality, it seems to be an impossible task. First of all, a country-wide filter is totally different from an internal filter(like one's in your offices and schools). A keyword filter is also ridiculously limited(how about sites for prostate and breast cancer?) The ISP's should at least be provided with a list of sites to be blocked. ISP's also warn that enacting a filter would also slow down internet access at a national level.

The whole affair is springing questions from all fronts. Technically, experts seem to agree that with the technology available right now, banning pornography the way the ministry sees it is simply impossible.

As TechDirt puts it: "It seems like yet another case of someone demanding that "something" must be done, without realizing that said "something" isn't really possible."

I say a countrywide ban is just not worth it. I think Indonesia should back-track a little and re-think the whole approach.

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