2001 Report on Internet Content Filtering

Posted May 4, 2006 to Censorship , Computing , Pakistan category.

The following is a report from August 2001 by the Ministry of Science & Technology regarding the feasibility of internet censorship in Pakistan.

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Government of Pakistan
Ministry of Science & Technology
(IT & Telecommunications Division)

Islamabad, the 23rd August, 2001

Subject:- FINAL REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON CONTROL OF INTERNET CONTENTS FILTERING

In response to the directives from the Minister for Science & Technology to resolve the issue of Internet contents filtering, the Secretary IT & Telecom directed to form a committee under the chairmanship of Member (IT). The formal announcement of the appointment of members of the committee and the terms of reference were documented and sent to the members as well as the Secretary IT & Telecom and Minster for Science &
Technology via email on 13th and 14th July 2001.

2. The committee operated through email and exchanged comments on the subject. Due to the virtual (email) mode there was some delay in getting the comments but during August, we had the comments from most of the members. The individual comments are attached to this report.

3. Salient points of the comments are summarized below:-

Preambles

In the Terms of Reference, the report was to consist of:-

a) Synopsis of Solution,
b) Technical Details,
c) Commercial Impact,
d) Implementation details,
e) Robustness, and
f) Open issues.

However, as can be seen from the detailed comments of the committee members, it appears that any technical solution would be so fragile that it cannot really be recommended as solution. Hence this report is restructured as follows:-

a) Technical Aspects,
b) Solutions
c) Conclusion, and
d) Recommendations.

Technical aspects:

  • Only Limited filtering will be possible through firewall of Pakistan Internet Exchange (PIE) on the ISP's who are utilizing bandwidth through this system at the cost of service quality.

Blocking undesirable traffic through a proxy server will not be effective due to the following reasons:-

  • It is wrong to assume that all internet traffic coming to the country is traveled through one entry. Internet traffic currently travels via satellite earth stations or via the SEMEWEA-III fibre cable. Other asymmetric links are used by many ISP's to provide better and more cost effective connectivity to their clients. These links use regular PTCL channels for the outgoing requests and a direct downlink onto the ISP or user site from satellite, for the incoming data . The PTCL will loose its monopoly for data traffic in 2002. In such a case a huge variety of data links are then expected to be available with the vast majority coming in via satellite. Hence it will not be possible to control traffic at a single entry point.
  • Limited filtering is possible through firewall but will require a filter router at every downlink location. This would be a logistical nightmare if not an outright impossibility. In any case there is no possibility of blocking a user from directly dialing abroad and connecting to an ISP.
  • Blocking of proxy sites will create unnecessary interest by Internet users while normally tendency is that the customers interest is decreasing with the passage of time. If all sites are blocked, these sites can be approached through in-direct access e.g. through e-mail or through other free proxy servers.

Solution:

  • To educate people about the harmful effects of pornography on the Internet like education of Family Planning.
  • Writing and publication of articles educating people about the harmful effect of pornography.
  • To control Internet Contents Filtering, the issue may be debated in the media and let the environment form their views on the subject. After getting clear inputs and options from the professionals.
  • Use of other tools like netnanny on computers by parents/guardians to protect their children.

Conclusion:

Any attempt to perform content filtering at the country level will be waste of resources. No bulletproof solution is available. It would be:-

  • futile,
  • a logistical nightmare,
  • a very expensive exercise, and
  • would cause a lot of bad political allegations of news filtering.
  • Since the material is abundantly available in the local market at a much cheaper rate, therefore content filtering would not be a solution.

This is a social problem and a social problem should be handled in social way.

Recommendations

The issue may be debated in the media and let the environment form their views on the subject. After getting clear inputs and options from the professionals.

( M. Tariq Badsha )
Member (IT Secretary IT & Telecommunications
Minster for Science & Technology

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Comment: It is good to see that at least someone in government is in the know.

3 Comments

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looks like the blogspot ban has finally been lifted!
about time!

i think the guy might have gotten fired.

nothing is impossible. :-)

Pakistan government needs to understand the guy and stop the internet censorship.

Hey I just got a popup from my firewall when I opened your site. Do you know why this occured? Could it perhaps from the advertisements or something? It truly unusual and I wish it was harmless? Come on, it's my new PC...

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