Internet control front – Public decency and courtesy

Guest writer: Lakshya Humagain

It was much easier in the olden days when the Government controlled everything. The equation has changed drastically with the recent advancement in communication and electronics. The phone, newspapers, radio, movies, television, post letters were much easier to control. In this internet-age, although all of these services can now be embraced in a single device, a computer; it is much more difficult to control.

There are always problem when government seeks control on one of these communication media. Countries like US and China are effectively controlling these media but, when it comes to the poor countries, like Nepal, it is not that easy.

The recent attempt of the Nepali government to control internet can be seen as one of the desperate attempts to control communication of its citizen. The only, and the most palatable front to start internet control was "public decency and courtesy" issue. They know, society can digest the argument and there will be less resistance on such control. The idea however is not original, and was widely practiced during the 1980s feminists and conservatives’ attempt to raise the issues of morality and public safety. Their argument, hard-core erotica promotes sexual violence against women, was proved to be flawed! In a paper (download pdf) presented at Stanford Law School, Clemson University economist, Todd Kendall, suggest that p0rn sites help potential rapists to relieve their sexual urges and do less crimes. Meaning, such sites actually decreases sexual violence.

The agenda of banning such ‘indecent sites’ in Nepal was raised in the Ministry of Home Affairs last year, during the tenure of Bam Dev Gautam, the home minister in the then Maoist-led government. The idea was liked by many but hey had no idea on how to implement it. Majority of the high level bureaucrats get the issues related to internet second hand as, they have yet to practice typing and move the mouse cursor. I guess, most of them are thinking the internet ‘elephant’ as a ‘wall’, ‘pillar’, ‘broom’, or a ‘pipe’. That is why I can understand why the report in Republica makes sense:

… the Home Ministry had also directed the Nepal Police to conduct raids at cyber cafes in the capital a few days ago but withdrew the directive immediately after realizing that it was the ISPs that could curb specific web searches.

Website blocking is financially challenging too. China, known at the leader in internet sites blocking, spends huge amount of money in the effort. One of the most ambitious project, the Golden Shield Project, started in 1998, began processing in November 2003 and by 2002 the preliminary work of the Project had cost US$800 million. Can Nepal government afford to spend that much money?

Anybody, with little knowledge of internet, can render all these blockage useless by using various routing services or proxies. In Nepal, where the local government has little control over the business practices, these ‘smart’ people who can bypass the ban, can even start a new business – ‘uncensored internet services’.

Good luck guys!

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