It was almost exactly a year ago that I read this report on Techcrunch that said children in Nigeria were accessing porn from the XO Laptop (alias $100 PC). The story noted, tongue in cheek that
It’s heart warming to know that the efforts of the well meaning folks behind the OLPC project are delivering real results on the ground; providing the same opportunities for teenage boys to access internet porn no matter how impoverished they are or where they live.
It’s equally heart-warming to note the special Presidential directive to the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) that websites featuring obscene and pornographic material should be filtered with immediate effect to protect children against internet pornography.
A Sri Lankan President who cares and is a paragon of virtue. Who would have imagined it?
In 1999, Australia tried to do much the same thing and it resulted in a huge public outcry against the rise of a nanny state. And as I suspect, unlike what will be the usual supine subservience to misplaced Presidential wisdom by Sri Lankan ISPs, Australian ISPs also made the case that it was simply not technically or economically feasible to block “pornographic sites”. Reading through existing net filtering legislation in Australia one notes the chaotic nature of it all and the emphasis on expunging “pornographic” content hosted in Australia as opposed to content offshore, which it does not censor. In August 2007 the Australian Government’s NetAlert programme started to offer free internet filters, online safety guides and other tips for parents, teachers and librarians.
The Daily News reports that,
If an adult wishes to have unrestricted access to the Internet, service may be obtained from an Internet Service Provider in password protected manner after making a payment. However, the user is responsible for use of the service in responsible manner and should ensure the filtered websites are not accessible to children.
The irony here is in the proposed firewall of “pornographic” content. A password. How original and foolproof is that? As Lirneasia correctly notes,
Assumed strict enforcement, this can lead to the ban of not just YouTube but Gmail and Yahoomail also, because pornography videos can easily be distributed via e-mail.
Add all instant messaging applications, P2P file sharing, Google Docs, Box.net and related online file storage services. Apparently though,
This decision was taken as there has been increasing concern about the exposure of children to obscene and pornographic materials via the internet. The proliferation of internet raises serious problems concerning unrestricted access to obscene and pornographic materials, especially by children.
The TRCSL directive goes on to ask ISPs to “filter the websites featuring Obscene/phonographic (sic) /sexually explicit materials”. And here I would have thought that Mervyn Silva’s profanities plastered across the media and the behaviour of his son, Keheliya Rambukwella’s shenanigans at Royal College with his son and – how to politely put it – our mentally challenged Foreign Minister’s notion that it’s perfectly alright to take his children to diplomatic functions conveyed a far more detrimental message, that it is fine for absolute power to corrupt absolutely with complete impunity.
In response to the creative uses it was put to by the children in Abuja, Negroponte’s XO laptop went on to feature a porn filter.
What we in Sri Lanka desperately need today is a “President Rajapakse epiphanic directive of the day” spam filter to spare us from the ignominy of living under a regime that is increasingly and insufferably Victorian.