Slippery slope to repression - TechCentral

Slippery slope to repression

Deputy home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba wants to introduce legislation that will compel Internet service providers to block pornographic material online. It’s all in the name of protecting the children, of course.

According to a Sapa wire report last week, Gigaba intends “fast-tracking the passage of a yet-to-be-drafted law that will compel Internet service providers to filter content provided to users to ensure it does not contain any pornography”.

He reportedly made the remarks at a symposium arranged by the Film & Publication Board to find ways of protecting children from the harmful effects of porn on the Web and mobile phones.

“Despite recent amendments to the law and other efforts to stop the devastating effect on children of their access to pornography, it’s not enough,” board legal affairs manager Dumisani Rorwana said in a statement. “The law as it stands is not working, so we have no choice but to take it to the next level.”

That sounds ominous, especially given that these noises are being made at the same time as the ANC is ratcheting up talk of the need for a media tribunal, and as concern continues to grow over the Protection of Information Bill.

These developments suggest a growing hostility in the ruling party to the freedom of expression that forms a cornerstone of our constitution.

Of course, efforts to protect children from the deleterious effects of hardcore pornography and violence, especially on free-to-air television, ought to be welcomed.

What mustn’t happen is what Gigaba appears to be proposing, namely taking a sledgehammer to the problem and, in the process, violating the constitution and taking the country back to the sort of blanket censorship not seen since the 1980s. SA is not Iran or China.

Most South Africans probably support Gigaba’s moves. Generally speaking, we’re a socially conservative bunch. But that doesn’t make curtailing free speech acceptable.

But what you and I choose to do in the privacy of our own homes should not be the concern of politicians or bureaucrats. And, despite the attendant problems, the responsibility of shielding children from inappropriate material ought to rest, for the most part, with their parents or guardians.

Yes, there needs to be — and is — legislation and regulation to prevent children from being exposed unwittingly to images that could harm them. That’s why movies have age restrictions and the SABC can’t replace the evening news with Debbie Does Dallas.

The Film & Publication Board declared after last week’s symposium that there was a need to block certain gaps in the broadcasters’ code of conduct that had resulted in “unsuitable content being aired during the past few months going unpunished”.

That’s the correct approach. It could be argued that programming on free-to-air channels like e.tv or the channels operated by the public broadcaster ought to reflect the general mores of society.

Unlike on the Internet or on pay TV, it’s difficult for parents to block material on free-to-air channels they deem inappropriate for their children. Online, on the other hand, there are plenty of software programs designed to do exactly that.

It’s true that there’s a world of filth on the Internet. But expecting Internet service providers to block access to it is a step too far. What’s needed is responsible parenting, not the sinister hand of a government censor.

Though SA has one of the world’s most liberal constitutions, it would behoove us all to ensure our politicians don’t trample on these rights. It’s a slippery slope to repression.

14 Comments

  1. Sure you’ll feel different when, God forbid, a family member gets raped or sodomised by a sex freak high on porn and whatever else. The ideal you hold so high I’m sure resonates within your social class, but the majority of the populace are not as intellectually or technically competent. And in a democracy, is the law not the will of the majority?

  2. So Max, of all SA’s rapists, how many have access to porn on the Internet do you suppose? How many of them are ‘high on porn”|? Facile argument, anyway, since social scientists have never been able to prove any link between porn and rape, despite their very best efforts.

    Our incidence of rape is alarmingly high, but I would wager most of the crimes would be perpetrated by men who have never seen some booty on the Web. Indeed, most countries where porn is and has long been freely available have lower rape stats than repressive third-world backwaters, as South Africa is becoming.

    And the reason we have a constitution is exactly to protect us from politicians bending down to populist stupidity. There are some individual rights that are not up for negotiation in any sane society. Not that we live in a sane or free society, but that’s besides the point.

  3. @Max “a sex freak high on porn and whatever else”?! The rape stats in Holland must be throught the ROOF! Come back with some stats and facts please.

    The fact is, technically, this plan is impossible to prevent in reality. It’s very easy for anyone with google access and 15 mins spare to get around pretty much any kind of firewall a government can put up.

    Speaking as a techie, the problem with this kind of filtering solution (be it porn, msic piracy, film piracy) is that the exact people it attempts to block, are the ones who will circumvent it, as they have the determination to do so. And it’s not difficult.

  4. This is all part of the move by the ANC to play Big Brother to South Africa.

    If they can find a way to block pornography on the internet then they can stop anything that they want to – such as anti-government sentiment, opposition parties’ awkward questions, the media telling us what is actually going on, and even Joe Blogger from having his or her little rant and rave.

    The past few weeks have seen thinking South Africans fending off the onslaught of a new ‘secrecy’ bill (Protection of Information), a media tribunal that the ANC wants to run itself, and now this outlandish proposal to dump an extremely onerous bureaucratic obligation on ISPs.

    All of these initiatives have been put forward supposedly with “the interest of the public” in mind. This is done by drawing attention to some real problems which DO indeed need to be addressed, such as pornography as mentioned here, journalists hounding people not in public office and being unethical in their reporting, and the need for some very select information to be kept secret by the state etc.

    Yet all of these proposals go so far beyond the scope of what the ANC is formally mentioning as their reasons and yet have such dire consequences if they are pushed through as they stand. (The blurting out of colourful remarks by a number of ANC members is far more of an indication of the true intent behind these moves.)

    If ANY of these control mechanisms are implemented, get ready for the thought police. We will see a country that is locked down tighter than China where we daren’t say anything out of place for fear that we will be dragged off to jail.

    There will be no effective opposition allowed, the media will become an ANC public relations exercise worse than the Nationalists during Apartheid, and ISPs will spend a huge chunk of their time trying to figure out what is OK and what isn’t according to some arbitrary government instructions.

    We can kiss democracy in South Africa goodbye and wait for Big Brother to tell us what we should look at, what we should think, how we should behave etc.

    Please fight these moves to control us.

  5. Max (and anybody who agrees with him).
    Warning: I’m very annoyed and am about to flame poor old Max.

    1. There is NO LINK between porn and rape. NO LINK of any kind. A university tried to study the effects of porn on young men. To do a study like that you need a) men who consume porn, and b) men who don’t. They couldn’t find ANYBODY for group b. But all men are not rapists.

    2. Rape is a horrible crime that should be reported, investigated and prosecuted.

    Now, Max: what’s this you say? I quote:
    “The ideal you hold so high I’m sure resonates within your social class, but the majority of the populace are not as intellectually or technically competent. And in a democracy, is the law not the will of the majority?”

    What are you saying? Duncan seems white and privileged, so he can write this? But “the majority is not intellectual or technically competent?” What are you saying? The (black) voters are stupid? And because they’re stupid it’s their say that counts?

    Well, Max, that’s not how our system works.
    We don’t think of our compatriots as idiots (except for you, perhaps).

    And this democracy is built on a constitution — a constitution for which people went to jail and sometimes were murdered.

    I think we can trust the voters on this. The problem is the government is not trusting the voters. There’s no vote happening here, Max. The ANC’s majority is leaking away and the ANC is trying to do what every goverment does: win votes.

    The government, a bit like you Max, has decided what is “good” for all of us. That’s why this is so troubling.
    There’s no referendum, there’s no debate. There’s just scaremongering nonsense invoking the “children” (I have two myself, both under 5).

    Go away, Max, and learn to think first, before using your “technical competence” on this forum. Else I’ll join the government and make it a law that prevents stupid people from owning or operating computers and cellphones. (Note: I will be the only person deciding who is stupid.)

  6. @ Ann, what you are saying is oh so very true! If they can block porn, they can block anything like anti-goernement sentiment! I wasnt event hinking of that, I’m just upset that they want to start to control what people see on the net. This should be something which should be done at home by the parents and NOBODY ELSE!
    If I as a parent want to block my children looking at Barney the dinosuar because I believe that he is an evil character, I should do it and not leave it upto the government to decide for me.
    This together with all the other bills they want to pass to block the media, arresting the journalist for what he said in the newspaper, all seems to be going south. We are going backwards and very soon we will be in an apartheid era again where the government decides what you can see, do and believe.

  7. Lol what a joke! It’s certainly a huge jump from being poorly educated to being stupid. You prejudice clearly shows by your words.
    Certainly you cannot compare Europe to Africa. The rest of us have different moral standards and values. But I suppose you can prove anything with your cherished statistics – which can be so easily manipulated. Wake up my fellow south africans.

    Now at no point was I suggesting that filtering cannot be circumvented. Nor that political repression should be tolerated.

    But I suppose an alcoholic will do anything to justify his use of alcohol……

  8. Max, you are clearly an idiot. You have nothing to back your prejudices up except an assertion that that “statistics can be manipulated.”

    Facts, Max, facts. Offer something of substance to support your case than being a self-righteous and moralistic twerp who thinks he has the right to impose his values on others.

  9. THIS IS BULL****, I HAVE A FREE RIGHT AS AN ADULT TO INDULGE IN PORN WHENEVER I LIKE. I KNOW THAT I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR ENSURING NO KIDS SEE THE PORN,

    SOUTH AFRICA IS JUST ‘BARELY’ MAKING AN INTERNET PRESENCE AND WE HAVE SOME ANAL RETENTIVE TELLING WHAT WE WILL AND WONT WATCH

    LET ALONE THE FACT THAT MOST RAPISTS DONT KNOW WHAT ‘INTERNET’ MEANS, LET ALONE ‘COMPUTER’.

    IF THIS PASSES, I’LL LEAVE THIS DOGMATIC AUTHORITARIAN NANNY STATES TO IT’S OWN DEVICES

  10. I agree with this legislation! Pass it, we will see a reduction of rape, paedophile incidents, abuse against woman as this is where it all starts. The thought gets created in the mind by the visuals and then in time the action can follow. Its only until you have your own kids that you realise how important this legislation is. I back this 100%!!

  11. @Anthony it’s strange that this country with the highest rape rate in the world, has the one of the lowest exposure to online porn. I’ve got a kid, I’m not a porn consumer, but I value my freedom and liberties enough to see that this kind of censorship is just a bunch of bible bashers trying to push their agenda through fear and ignorance.

    I know that the people who push this kind of legislation don’t subscribe to such ideas as “maths”, “statistics” and “facts”, but those concepts should play a part in the decision, and it’s quite alarming how the group that support this bill totally disregard them.

  12. @Anthony: Yeah, dude, like totally. In the good old days, before we had internet porn in our schools and tittie bars by our churches, there wasn’t any paedophilia or rape. Gert van Rooyen was an internet pioneer, that’s why he murdered young girls. I’ve met internet pioneers. They’re sick, man. Also, have you ever seen a man with a mustache and sideburns abuse a woman? Of course not. That’s because in the 1970s, Vorster and the NG Kerk banned those pictures that made them do it.

    It’s good to see that even after those pervert ringleaders Greg and Erich tried to fool us with research by pinko-liberal gay atheists that says there’s no link between porn and sex crimes (how gullible do they think we are?!), that there are still righteous people like you who know all the world will be puppy dogs and rainbows if the government would just burn our books and cut off our interwebs.

    Hey, why are you on the internet, anyway? There’s pr0n everywhere, man. Like, all over the place. You wouldn’t want to accidentally become a paedophile. Trust me, I’m a journalist. I’ve seen it. Research purposes, you know. It’s dangerous stuff. These days, I have to lock myself up at night just in case I get the irresistible urge to go out and abuse women.

  13. So, a patriarchal culture in which women are second-class citizens and subject to whatever abuse the males care to dish out is not to blame for high rape statistics, it’s boobies on the Internet?

    Pull the other one, it has bells on.

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