It's Not Censorship As Long As We Don't Call It Censorship

from the Malaysian-mayhem dept

Looks like the porn police have kicked into high gear in Malaysia. The government there has just said that all cyber cafes must use web porn filters. We assume this is being done for the sake of the children, as all earnest anti-porn measures are, though the story doesn’t quite make clear what the real intention is. Still, as many people pointed out when the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of mandatory filtering in libraries, the filters will cause many more problems than they’ll fix. Namely, they’ll do a bad job of actually blocking porn sites, they’ll inadvertently block many reasonable and useful non-porn sites, and they’ll be very costly to implement. Even worse, the Malaysian mandate will be forced on private businesses, not on free public computers in libraries. One service provider quoted in the story says that it’s only censorship if filtering is done by the ISP, rather than software on the PCs — where the owner of the PCs gets to pick what filters to use. However, since those filters are mandatory, it certainly seems to qualify as censorship under most definitions we know. The really unfortunate part is that, unlike millions of people in the US, many Malaysians probably don’t have a home computer they can fall back on when the government goes overboard with useless filtering on publicly accessible computers.

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Comments on “It's Not Censorship As Long As We Don't Call It Censorship”

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dorpus says:

What About Democratic Censorship?

Westerners have a knee-jerk habit of blaming governments for imposing censorship, presumably against the will of the people. But what if it is the voters who want it that way? Malaysia has a long history of antipathy between Muslim Malays and the more secular Chinese, who eat pork and have more casual attitudes towards sex. The Draconian laws in Malaysia have a lot to do with ethnic tensions, of preventing the Chinese from taking over the country with their secular, free-wheeling ways. Malay parents are upset at the idea of Malay kids being seduced by non-Muslims, neglecting their own heritage.

Tim Yang (user link) says:

Re: What About Democratic Censorship?

Greetings from Malaysia. Actually, the censorship thing is political. A bit of backstory: the government in Malaysia is dancing on razorblades between fundamentalist muslims and the rest of the country which is moderate and in some cases progressive. The censorship in internet cafes is a half measure that isn’t enforceable and isn’t complete. And that’s on purpose — to placate the fundamentalists (“See we’re doing something about the porn”) without really having true censorship. And BTW, the majority of all adults in the cities in this third world country have a home or office connection that isn’t censored. The CIA Factbook on Malaysia might give you some indication. Real censorship will never happen in Malaysia. Trust me. 😉 It will a) cost too much for the ISPs to implement with their badly-hacked service and b) they’d have to fix their badly-hacked service first and they don’t have the expertise.

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