Porn bill needs to be stripped - TechCentral

Porn bill needs to be stripped

Siyabonga Madyibi

Deputy home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba’s plan to fast-track the drafting of a law that will compel Internet service providers to filter adult content on their networks has telecommunications industry players concerned.

They say the bill is not practical.

Earlier this year, the Justice Alliance of SA (Jasa) produced a draft Pornography Bill, which holds Internet and mobile providers legally responsible if their users download porn onto their computers.

Jasa produced the document at the request of the Film & Publication Board.

Providers did not give the proposal much credence since it had yet to receive the backing of government. Now, though, operators are concerned Jasa’s document will be taken through the law-making process.

One of SA’s largest Internet providers, Internet Solutions, says the proposed legislation is akin to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly.

Regulatory director Siyabonga Madyibi says the definitions in the bill are too broad. “It seems to want to ban pornography in its entirety, instead of just banning porn for minors,” he says.

Madyibi says the intention of the bill — blocking minors’ access to porn — is noble, but there are other ways of tackling the issue.

“We can and do flag sites that contain adult content. With that, we can then force an Internet user to prove their age before allowing access to those sites,” he says.

According to Madyibi, this option is far cheaper and more practical to implement, especially if you combine it with the criminalisation of distributing porn to minors.

In its current form, the bill has harsh penalties for Internet providers that carry porn on their networks and Madyibi says it comes across as draconian.

“You don’t punish Volkswagen because an unlicensed minor stole his dad’s car. It’s the same situation with the porn bill,” he says.
Web Africa CEO Matthew Tagg says the bill as proposed is not practical to implement.

He says filtering solutions implemented in the UK and Australia, both of which resulted in service providers forking over huge amounts of money, had little impact.

“A filtering solution like this needs hardware and software and skills to implement, all of which have high costs. The costs could put many Internet service providers out of business,” he says.

Lumko Mtimde, CEO of the Media Development and Diversity Agency, says some balance needs to be struck between service providers and the protection of children.

“The question that needs to be asked is to what extent can this bill help all players without hindering, even unintentionally, the professions involved in the process,” he says.  — Candice Jones, TechCentral

8 Comments

  1. why is it so hard to do this? There are free services available that block porn with little impact.

    The government is overcomplexifying it and the ISP’s are too…

    Why can’t it be as simple as when you sign up for an account, there will be a process that is followed which will ascertain whether that account will be open or closed for porn. This process will need to be worked out but doesn’t have to be complicated. The terms and conditions will be explained and the holder can then decide if they wish to allow porn or not. If the account holder says yes to porn, they will be liable if a minor is exposed to porn, if the account holder says no to porn, the onus will be on the ISP’s to block it.

  2. southern sceptic on

    Mike, you clearly have no idea how blocking and filtering works, or rather, doesn’t work.

  3. “Porn bill needs to be stripped” YES.

    I hav seen so many articles on this ridiculous porno bill but
    how do we stop it in the first place?

    Its only matter of time for the gov to start blockin other services, Blackberry would be next. lol (sad lol).

  4. I agree with you Mike, but not fully….what I use my internet account for is my personal business and no one else. Yes ofcourse I am liable for the use of my account and regardless of who uses it, I am liable..telling you whether I want to view porn or not is not anyone’s concern….at the ende of the day if hacked in to someone’s internet banking I will be responsible when caught even if it was’nt me…it was my account simple as that….it it’s tyranny to band porn as a whole and to distinguish who and who does’nt want it…. Child porn is illegal and unacceptable, but I feel that the deputy minister is clueless and is going for the most cost effecient way for him only in order to rid the problem…it’s like saying ban all cars; they contribute to global warming….instead of considering other energy sources. It’s freedom of expression is being compromised….needs to go back to the table and channel his energy on child porn.

  5. This whole blocking of porn is just a step of the government to block what they dont want you to see on the net. Welcome to Zim and China!
    Also its the parents at home responsiblity to see what the children are upto. You install software which has sites which is block accordingly to who is using the computer. This is not diffucult and its the parent who should do this and not the goernement!!! And if the governement is really SO worried about the porn they can provide the software for free for the people who cant afford it. To write software even will not cost more than a few million rand

  6. Onward! To Draconia! on

    Does this mean we could potentially ban all idiots in case they are a bad example to our kids? If so, we could get rid of most of the government in one fell swoop – and all will benefit – not just the children.

    OK, back to the issue here. Great firewall of China, here we come to join you. It is the responsibility of our parents and schools to instill discipline and educate our youth. Giving them free reign to a censored internet is not the best way. Rather, control what they can access at a local (pc or lan) level.

    What’s next? Censoring any sides that speak ill of old Julius? Shutting down blogs that promote political discussion and debate?

  7. I admire the level-headed approach of Siyabonga Madyibi. Booze adverts abound in prime time SABC & E-TV; what has the government done to stop and punish those who advertise or air their harmful to end-user products which affect those poor souls who can’t resist temptation? I don’t see any white papers on liquor advertising. Parents have to take control of their responsibilities & educate their offspring. Taxis & heavy trucks kill & maim innocent motorists & passengers daily. Proposed bannings? Certainly not – too lucrative maybe? Ban porn insomuch as exposure to minors or kiddy porn is concerned but don’t shut down the electronics industry because of certain psychologically challenged imbeciles who promote & indulge in under age perversions. You drive a Mercedes, she drives a BMW & I drive a Toyota; so what? If Toyotas kill more people than BMWs do, will the government ban Toyotas from our roads?
    I have twice written to E-TV about the sickening abundance of porn cellphone downloads adverts that are rammed into the viewers faces at every, lengthy, ad break after 11pm on many nights with Saturday nights being the popular ones. The complaints don’t appear to warrant a response & the ads continue. I record a movie, rated 16 VL, watch it at a time of my choosing and my 83 year-old mother-in-law walks in during the start of an ad break. How demeaning, BUT, how does it affect households where teeange kids are present? Is there not a proliferation of cellphone porn doing the rounds in schools and teenage social environs? With what E-TV is promoting you don’t need a computer to access porn. What are the keepers of our moral society doing to stem the flow of free for all porn advertising on open air?
    This kind of response to an international scurge needs to be tackled with sensitivity to all affected parties input and needs. If the international community’s lawmakers haven’t come up with a workable solution what the hell do our officials know that they’re not sharing with the clever people? You can’t kill a crocodile by throwing stones at it.

  8. ISPs will always complain that filtering pornography is not feasible but technologies are available that can do this with little impact. Banning pornography will unfortunately result in affecting the revenue of ISPs who know that it can make up 25% of their internet traffic. It is very difficult to tell if a connection is going to be used by minors or not or to identify sites and verify ages. Matthew Tagg is incorrect in comparing this proposal to the UK and Australia where they have vastly different systems. The UK has child sexual abuse sites blocked on a voluntary basis for ISPs as will Australia within 1 year’s time. The South African Government has taken a responsible stand against pornography and it has no positive value to any society. Those who want to access it can go to an R18 shop. The internet is a public place so it has no right to be there.