In Summary
  • Last week the ICT Cabinet Secretary, Joe Mucheru, directed the Communication Authority (CA) to explore how pornographic content could be controlled, in an effort to protect children from harmful content.
  • We want the best for our children, but this move would also open room for the government to attempt to control other aspects of our lives.
  • Perhaps a compromise can be reached where service providers are forced through regulation to provide free and simple end-user tools for parents to filter online access on behalf of their children.

Last week the ICT Cabinet Secretary, Joe Mucheru, directed the Communication Authority (CA) to explore how pornographic content could be controlled, in an effort to protect children from harmful content.

This sparked off heated debates on social media, with different groups supporting or opposing the directive.

Those opposing the directive felt that oppressive regimes often start off with high-sounding ideals and eventually creep into individual freedoms without one's knowledge.

Specifically, those in opposition felt that initially the CA would force telcos and other providers to block porn, and sooner rather than later, the government would ask that ''other'' content be blocked. Essentially, if what is not good for your children can be blocked, what is not good for you too can be blocked.

If we are to extend this argument to its logical conclusion, once the tools for filtering porn have been installed and are functional, they can easily be tweaked to filter content or political voices that are too critical of government positions.

If this were to happen, Kenya would potentially have joined the league of nations that suppress freedoms of press, thought, association and other human rights.

VALID POINTS

Those supporting the directive against porn also had very valid points. One obvious one is that our children deserve to be protected from content that is harmful or inappropriate for their age.

Indeed, access to porn or adult sites in developed economies is strictly controlled and requires the user to be an adult or have access to a credit card. Additionally, service providers are forced to provide tools for parents to use to monitor and control access. Content is rated so that parents can easily block access on the kid’s devices using the installed software.

In Kenya, this effort is only beginning to take root and seems to be optional rather than mandatory. The business of a telco or an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is basically to sell access or bandwidth. Whether that bandwidth is used for educational, social, political, economic or other purpose is often the least of their concerns.

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