South African politician wants to ban online porn

As China unblocks a wave of pornographic sites, South Africa's Deputy Minister of Home Affairs has declared his intent to ban all digital pornography in the country.

The stated goal of the draft bill (PDF), developed in conjunction with the Justice Alliance of South Africa, is "to make it illegal for Internet and Mobile phone service providers in the Republic of South Africa to distribute or permit to be distributed pornography, so as to ensure protection for children and women." ISPs and mobile phone service providers who violate the law will face a fine and/or five years in prison.

Service providers are also required to monitor their networks and report any violations on the part of their customers to the South African police. The draft text helpfully notes that "major expenditure [by the government] is not expected. The costs of complying with the legislation will fall on the Internet Service Providers."

The minister heading the anti-porn movement, Malusi Gigaba, has likened (PDF) the ban to safety measures in cars: "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."

A number of countries, mostly in the Middle East and North Africa, currently filter pornography, and OpenNet Initiative testing in Ethiopia in 2009 found that the country selectively filters some socially sensitive content. If the proposed bill becomes law, South Africa will become the first sub-Saharan African country to engage in widespread filtering of sexual content online.

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