The sensible reason for a web filter, Part – I

In response to – The ostensible reason for web filter, published ‘The Hindu’ – 2nd Dec, 2014

In the opening sentence of the Third way culture project report –

The Internet is transforming the experience of growing up in America. It is also transforming the job of being a parent in America. The Internet brings the world—the good, the bad, and the ugly—to the American family’s doorstep. It brings the ruins of ancient Athens to that doorstep, but it also brings the red light district of Bangkok

‘The Porn Standard’ is a report published by one of the leading think tanks of a country that is considered the inventor of the Internet. So, when the said article suggests not blocking Internet pornography in India, its concerns and arguments seem farfetched in this new world we are living through today.

The Internet has been synergistically linked to human sexuality since its inception. In fact, pornography was one of the early financial engines that helped transform the Internet from a relatively unknown U.S. military research project into a burgeoning information, communications, and commercial highway of global proportion. The coupling of technology with sexuality has brought forth a unique continuum of benefits and risks for society. For example, there is now greater access to information regarding sexual education and sexual health. On the other hand, the Internet has become a highly effective and profitable means of distributing sexually explicit material, as well as a sophisticated conduit for compulsive sexual behavior; sex trafficking, and sex crime. In speaking to these risks, several experts in the field of mental health contend online sexual pursuits are “a hidden public health hazard exploding, in part, because very few are recognizing it as such or taking it seriously.”

What Research says –

In this light, the article seems oblivious of the growing menace of pornography. Instead of being specific to the point to web freedom and its effect on political discussions and freedom of speech, the article goes on out to quote research that seems to support pornography and pornography seeking behavior. That pornography is bad for the human mind, especially of the young and impressionable mind of children and teenagers is long established through research. Sexually explicit contend tends to focus on unaffectionate, recreational and violent sexual activities. Research suggest that exposure does increase endorsement of recreational and gender stereotypical attitudes towards sex, uncommitted sexual exploration (i.e. one night stand, hooking up) and earlier sexual initiation (Media and Well-being of children and Adolescents, Amy B. Jordan et.al.). Exposure to sexually explicit media may also contribute to sexual aggression, acceptance of rape myth (Allen et.al., 1995), and risky behavior (e.g., having unprotected sex, extra-maritial sex, paid sex, multiple partners) (Wright and Randall, 2012). Results presented in the 2014 Indian Psychological journal article quoted, goes on to say – ‘The indicator, ‘crime against women,’ measurement may not be the appropriate one to measure the impact of pornography on the society. Other indicators such as abortion rate, teenage pregnancy rate, prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, school and colleges drop out, internet and pornography addiction, changing patterns of family child marriage rate, impact on marriage, divorce rate, domestic violence, child and woman trafficking, tourism and economy needs to be explored before coming to any conclusion’, indicating that there are many other ways in which society can gets affected due of pornography.

As reported in the Delhi Rape case, 2012 –

After watching a porn film, a 22-year-old man lured a 5-year-old child with chocolates and brutally raped her.

One of every five mobile users in India wants adult content on his 3G-enabled phone. Pornography web sites rank among the most popular in India. Three Karnataka ministers were forced to resign after they were caught watching porn on a mobile phone in the precincts of the Legislative Assembly. Bangalore Rape case, 2014 –

recent gang rape-of a six-year-old child at Bangalore’s vibgyor school is the presence of child sexual abuse imagery in the laptop of one of the suspects.

While India is regularly on top of Internet pornography traffic and China is not, is probably because china blocks pornography and is able to do it effectively.

Legal Aspects

That blocking Internet pornography is the moral and legal responsibility the government and the Internet Service Providers (ISP) is easy to establish. Pornographic data transmission is an illegal activity under section 67 of the IT Act, 2000 and Section 13 of the Prevention of Children from Sexual offences Act, 2012. With 30% web traffic consisting of Porn, they can be directly held responsible under the above acts as beneficiaries (telecom revenue). To help in this case, the author who is an Internet technology expert has shared the required technology and details for blocking pornography with the government thru filing an affidavit in the said Kamlesh Vaswani vs GOI case. As of 2008, IP Blocking is being used in 8 countries, DNS Blocking in 5 countries (India as well) and proxy based blocking in 16. Out of these DNS blocking is the most efficient and cost effective technique, wherein only the required pornographic sites get blocked. This when combined with selective traffic monitoring of suspected IP addresses leads to a very effective blocking infrastructure. Identified websites are added to a centrally maintained database of websites, which are then blocked by ISPs (e.g. Airtel, Vodaphone, BSNL) DNS servers. Untrusted DNS servers are blocked and Government makes it easy to check if a site is blocked via simple online system. Claim is with the above, >98% blocking of Pornographic websites content can be achieved at a reasonable/ low cost.

In the end

The pornography industry – once relegated to the shadows of society – has harnessed the power of the Internet to become as lucrative a business as network television. Parents today are doing an important job and society has a deep stake in their success. Government officials can no longer sit on the sidelines, while pornographers and sexual predators aggressively solicit our children and young adults online. The public and its representatives must choose between the porn standard and the standards that millions of parents seek to enforce for the benefit of their children. In the second part of this article we talk about the effect pornographic consumption is having on young minds and how government is a silent beneficiary.

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