From pornography to censorship?

In a presentation made at the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) on the occasion of drafting the 2008 Colombo Declaration on Media Freedom and Social Responsibility, I noted that,

I certainly agree with the fact that we need to protect our children from pornography, but it does not really tell us how it is going to do this.  It is an incredible technical challenge to do this. It could also be pornography today but the same technology can  be used to create what is called the Great Firewall of China.

Late 2008, the Government out of the blue demanded measures that somehow needed to be taken by ISPs to ‘protect’ children from online pornography. It was evident that the Executive and the motely crew of yes-men who surround him, including at ICTA and all of the major ISPs / telcos, had the courage to suggest that this was technically unfeasible, unworkable, unnecessary and unsustainable – without of course egregious and over broad censorship and monitoring of web and Internet communications.

Foreign Policy magazines new Net Policy blog lists my own writing as a daily read. When I was going through the content posted by Evgeny Morozov, the blog’s chief contributor, I found this post that resonated with the domestic scenario,

In January, I wrote a column for Newsweek International, arguing that the Chinese are using the “pornography” excuse — a goverment-sanctioned effort to crack down on online vulgarity — to shut down several sites offering highly critical opinions on political and social issues in modern China (the most prominent of them was an edgy Chinese group blog, Now, other countries are getting the hang of China’s tricks. News site Menassat reports on a recent “anti-porn” campaign in Bahrain being used to target a wide spectrum of groups, including those working on human rights issues. Even more disturbingly, the campaign has now spread to social media sites like Facebook.

There’s a warning and lesson for Sri Lanka here.


  1. UK’s proposed Internet surveillence a model for repressive regimes? « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - May 2, 2009

    […] I have noted in the past, ostensibly benevolent surveillence such as pornography filters can be the harbinger of more aggressive mechanisms to monitor and shut down […]

  2. Internet censorship in Sri Lanka « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - June 18, 2009

    […] Tissainayagam. There are specific fears of web media censorship I have also covered here, framed by the devastating erosion of the freedom of expression and media freedom in Sri […]

  3. US federal IT investment visualizations: Storyboards for citizens « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - July 3, 2009

    […] The most progressive our government gets is to talk about getting rid of pornography on the web getting rid of pornography on the web and getting women to record themselves getting […]

  4. Blogger arrested in Sri Lanka for “offensive” comments regarding President and Defense Secretary? « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - November 1, 2009

    […] disturbing transition from banning pornography to open web censorship seems to have been […]

  5. Clamping down on websites in Sri Lanka with Chinese help « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - January 31, 2010

    […] I have written extensively since 2005 on how the Rajapakse government has clamping on websites. In From pornography to censorship? I flagged fears over the regime’s avowed desire to protect children from online pornography […]

  6. New media versus online censorship « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace) - March 12, 2010

    […] RSF has an interesting article on growing contest between web censorship and web media leveraged to strengthen dissent online. But the way I see it, it’s not just the usual suspects who seek to control information flows online. We must deride in principle all countries that seek to regulate content on the web for disturbingly parochial reasons, often guised as measures that benefit society and protect morals. […]

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