ProjectX

Mobile Porn Censorship

zedian and pacman

It is Christmas time. Between buying gifts and baking cookies, I assume that you are all spending at least some minutes thinking about the coming year. So do I. When I think about a coming year, I think about another chapter in the book of life. That new chapter exists for me as for the technology that surrounds us. This train of thought always leads me to the issues I would like to address for taking care of in 2012. One of these issues is – and has always been since my blog exists – censorship. A recent news article on RIM and Indonesia dictates that I devote this censorship-article to censorship on mobile phones.

When talking about censorship and mobile phone there is always one incident which pop up in the minds of Germans who are keen on staying updated on this area. A very popular German newspaper (similar level of entertainment and information as the British SUN) brought out an application for mobile phones. The newspaper always features a half-naked woman on its first page. Let us leave it at the following: iPhones do not show these pictures in the BILD app. If that was imposed censorship or induced self-censorship is hard to tell. Needless to say that these pictures are still shown in the web presence of this website.

The news article which brings me to this blog is about Indonesia and RIM, the company which produces the Blackberry mobile phones. Blackberry mobile phones have the unique feature that when the data is transferred (e.g. while browsing or checking Facebook) it is encrypted. The reason for that is the infrastructure of Blackberry. The data is transferred to the data center in Canada and from their redirected. Blackberry having been the number one provider for companies uses this as an unique selling point towards customers who do not like to let their business secrets float around in cyberspace unsecured. There are three ways for a government to crackdown on Blackberry data streams.
1. They ask for the data streams from their mobile phone service providers and try to decrypt the 1’s and 0’s coming out (kind of pretty much work and difficult if not impossible to manage if you aim at ALL data streams in your country
2. They sue RIM in their country to open the encryption for them and threaten them to otherwise ban Blackberry phones (has not worked so far for any country which tried such as Saudi Arabia or India)
3. Get RIM to install a service center in your country and them get the decrypted data directly from there (by e.g. getting a court order)

You can deduce that the third option is the most feasible. Therefore, Indonesia – the Southeast Asian country with the most Blackberry users – was happy having been chosen to host the new RIM Southeast Asia data center. This data center is going to be setup between now and early 2012. However it is not setup in Indonesia but most probably in Singapore. The reason for that can be found partially in 2009. In 2009 the Indonesian government asked Blackberry to remove its encryption or at least tell them who of the Blackberry users in Indonesia is using his or her mobile phone (gender mainstreaming!) to watch porn. Watching porn is prohibited by law in Indonesia. Sorry guys. Indonesia was also not able to convince RIM to open up and show them who of their citizens is watching porn. Therefore, Indonesia wanted to have the data center within the limits of its legal reach and RIM did not want that to happen. Precisely because other SEA countries which would then channel their data streams through the newly built data center would be affected. In simple words: Indonesian executive crackdown on a RIM data center within its borders would not only enable them to read the traffic of their citizens but also of citizens from all other countries which are going to channel their data through that center. No one wants that.

The fun part here is: Give a man or woman a computer, a search engine and subsequently a virtual privacy network or secret proxy and he or she will still be able to watch porn. Even though a discussion on watching porn as a Human Right under Freedom of Information is floating around in my head, I will not entertain it now. All that drama because someone could do the same with less effort on his phone? Well, I guess watching porn on your phone is not much fun. Therefore, it would take tethering to bring it to a bigger screen. I am not sure if looking for a VPN/proxy or tethering is more easy to accomplish. I guess, what I am trying to say is: It is useless to try the whole crackdown on a possible RIM data center thingy.

Censorship does not get you anywhere, because you are only going to hide the problem. If you, dear government, really want to do something about it, fight the source, the roots and so on. Censorship however, is doomed to fail. Conclusively, in order to make your citizens not watch porn…you have to come up with something better. Maybe tell them that it makes them lose eyesight forever…

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