South Africa’s government wants to censor the internet

South Africa wants to follow in the footsteps of Yemen and the United Arab Emirates by censoring the internet from "pornography".

South Africa wants to follow in the footsteps of Yemen and the United Arab Emirates by censoring the internet from “pornography”.

According to the South African government released in a statement today from The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba “The Internet and Cellphone Pornography Bill proposes that pornography be filtered out at the tier one service providers to avoid it entering the country. The Bill is aimed at the total ban of pornography on internet and mobile phones. United Arab Emirates and Yemen already have legislation in this regard. Australia and New Zealand are currently seeking to do so.”

Yemen is almost a enemy of the internet, they are on ONI’s watchlist but not currently on Reporters Without Borders’s internet enemy list. Yemen has two ISPs that blocks everything from gambling to sex education as well as Christian material and other material that could “convert” Muslims into other religions.

The United Arab Emirates is on the ONI’s substantial category and is not on Reporters Without Borders’s internet enemy list however the UAE censors politically sensitive material, ALL Israeli domains and anything the UAE government does not agree with. All voice over IP services are blocked.

So these two countries filter out everything political and religious wise that can change their citizen’s perception. They are also politically agressive towards Israel.

Australia is on the ONI’s nominal category since 2009 and does not alow “RC” content. That is content that is “refused classification or banned” and also does not allow hardcore non-voilent pornography.

In 2009 Australia started filtering the internet and even blocked sites that had nothing to do with pornography, they also blocked political sites that did not agree with everything the Australian government had to say.

There is a blacklist that filters out Child pornography but this is the same filter that also filters out some political sites.

Back in South Africa, today the MInister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba met with Justice Alliance of South Africa that was represented by Advocate Johan Smyth and Brendan Studti. The meeting was part of the ongoing work to make a bill and to get legal opinion on constitional issues related to the Internet and Cellphone Pornography Bill.

Current legislation in South Africa does ban child pornography but the bill in progress called the Internet and Cellphone Pornography Bill will ban all pornography entirely from computers and cellphones through the internet.

Malusi Gigaba  said that “Cars are already provided with brakes and seatbelts, it is not an extra that consumers have to pay for. There is no reason why the internet should be provided without the necessary restrictive mechanisms built into it.”

So soon South Africans could see a law passed that will ban all pornography on the internet but this poses the exact problem that the other countries and their citizens face.

It starts with blocking porn but then as governments become more like tyrants we see them using the same filter that was originally intented for good to keep their own citizens in the dark and disconnected from the rest of the world.

The biggest problem is that once a government gets their hands on a “internet censor or filter”, they dont stop filtering whatever comes next and is in their interest.

Here is the 2010 Reporters Without Borders part on the United Arab Emirates:

  Despite the fact that the United Arab Emirates are experiencing the highest penetration rate in the Arab
world, the authorities have implemented an extensive system to filter sensitive subjects, backed by repressive
laws.

Netizens are increasingly resorting to proxy servers to access thousands of banned websites.
A “two-facetted country”: technological leader and zealous Internet censor
Countries under surveillance

Cell phones are also being filtered. The latest victim is the Blackberry, whose Internet access has been filtered
since December 2009. Authorities tried to install spyware on smartphones in July 2009, but users
raised such an uproar that they finally abandoned the plan.
Cyber-laws and cyber-police

Since December 2008, UAE cyber-police have been in charge of monitoring the Web and keeping an eye
on its users. According to the authorities, they processed over 200 cases in 2009, mainly related to cybercrime
and hacking.

Intensified surveillance has been coupled with liberticidal laws.

By virtue of Article 20 of the 2006 law
against cyber-criminality (the Computer Crime Act), an Internet user may be imprisoned for “opposing
Islam,” “insulting any religion recognized by the state,” or “violating family values and principles.”

Another victim of the censors, the website www.Hetta.com, has been targeted by judicial harassment. Its
chief editor, Ahmed Mohammed bin Gharib, was sentenced to a fine of AED 20,000 (about USD 5,400)
for “defaming,” “insulting,” and “humiliating” the Abu Dhabi Media Company, a state-controlled media
outlet for publishing an article in May 2009 in which journalists denounced the company’s “administrative
corruption” and “embezzlement” practices.

The appeal hearing upheld this penalty on January 13. Ahmed
Mohammed bin Gharib lodged an appeal with the Court of Cassation..
Intensifying cyber censorship and circumvention efforts

Despite the fact that, based upon a poll published by the newspaper Khaleej, 95.5% of the respondents
opposed the current filtering system, the latter has been intensifying in the last few months according to
the OpenNet Initiative.

Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City, which, until now, had been spared by
censorship, are now being filtered despite the promises made to investors. Yet UAE netizens are not easily
dissuaded: increasing numbers of them are discovering how to circumvent the censorship and regain Internet
access.