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Monday, November 20, 2017
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Gigaba to fast-track porn law

Deputy Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba intends to fast-track the passage of a yet-to-be drafted law that will compel Internet service providers (ISP) to filter content provided to users to ensure it does not contain any pornography.

The South African Press Association reports the Film and Publication Board (FPB), an agency of the dysfunctional Department of Home Affairs, held a symposium this week to look at ways of protecting children from porn. "Despite recent amendments of the law and other efforts to stop the devastating effect on children of their access to pornography, it's not enough," FPB legal affairs manager Dumisani Rorwana said in a statement yesterday. "The law as it stands is not working, so we've no choice but to take it to the next level."

Technology had advanced to a point where ISPs would be able to filter out around 95% of the content in a "highly cost-effective way", he said. Similar programmes to safeguard children from pornography were currently in place in China, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. "We expect resistance from those who claim the freedom to access pornography as a fundamental right," Rorwana said.

"However, it is well established in legal circles that the rights of children are paramount. By comparison, viewing pornography remains a peripheral right." Gigaba would now meet with his counterparts at Cabinet level to determine where the bill would best fit. The symposium also agreed on the need to block certain gaps in the broadcasters' code that had seen instances of "unsuitable content being aired during the past few months going unpunished", Rorwana said.

The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) in response says not all alternative solutions to protecting children from pornography over the Internet or cellphones have been adequately explored. Executive director Ayesha Kajee says blanket bans on the spread of pornography only serve to criminalise it and push it underground where it is even harder to control.

Kajee says while the Constitution does have a clause that limits freedom of expression, “the clause also states that other less restrictive remedies should be looked at”. These alternative remedies should be the use of hardware and software control measures by parents to restrict their children's access to pornography, that children's cellphones are actively blocked from receiving porn, and that the possibility of some kind of user code to verify age is placed on adult sites.

“Blanket bans and pushing the responsibility to block porn on a third party does not work,” Kajee says.
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