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Zim ISPs should filter internet porn

Opinion

With the proliferation of pornography on our internet and social media, children are being exposed to shocking images at very early stages of their lives. Things that adults do are now no longer private as they were in the past. Pornography is on many children’s figure tips. Believe it or not, our children are now sharing the latest videos in their possession on social media platforms in school grounds. Today’s instant access to pornography by children, through fixed and mobile Internet-capable devices, is an epidemic in Zimbabwe, and we believe this crisis will not change without the help of the Internet service providers. Millions of children are accessing pornography in Zimbabwe, with some becoming porn addicts at a very young age.

As ICT professionals we have discovered through research, and engaging other tech experts from all over the world, that ISP’s can play an immediate and major role in reducing and even stopping the transmission of pornography on the Internet before it reaches a client’s device. We found that such implementation is reasonable financially and technologically not burdensome to ISPs and customers alike, and will guarantee the reduction of the number of children accessing pornography along with the many health factors associated.

The consequences of pornography are detrimental to our children’s wellbeing leading to depression, deviancy, or risky behaviuor. It has far-reaching long-term effects that include difficulties in constructing a loving relationship, having a degrading image of women, sexual addiction and many more. Today’s online pornography, which was mostly in magazines and books is a far cry from that of our grandparent’s generation. It is no longer a question of eroticism. Now it creates the image of a completely dehumanised, automated sexuality, void of any feelings. It conveys a degrading image of women. It is a violent sexuality, where women are in a position of submission, alienation, and totally subservient to the desires of man in action. Today, children are not at all protected when they surf the web on their own. There are pop-ups which they can come across which will display upsetting, violent and pornographic images at any time. This ever present featuring of sexual practices is something unprecedented in our African societies. That which had always remained hidden is permanently on show, in plain sight. This exposed intimacy is traumatising for young children, as it makes them feel appalled, excited and guilty, all at the same time.

An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is the company you as a client pay your monthly fee to for access to the internet. Regardless of the kind of internet access (cable, DSL, dial-up), an ISP provides you or your business with the ability to connect to the internet. All internet connected devices run each request through your ISP in order to access servers to download web pages and files, and those servers themselves can only provide you those files through their own ISP.”

Examples of ISPs include ZOL, Telone, TELCO, just to name a few. They are wired directly to a home or business and beamed wirelessly via satellite or other technology. We all have some sort of device in our home or business that connects us to the internet. It is through that device that one’s phone, laptop, desktop computer, and other internet capable devices reach the rest of the world and this is all done through various ISPs.”

With these capabilities, it means the institutions that should stop pornography are the ISP, since it is their cables that the internet has to travel through. The question is why are Zimbabwe’s ISP allowing pornography to pass through their systems. There is SafeDNS; this is a team of ICT and web security experts that offer web filtering services used by more than 4 000 organisations and tens of thousands of private users across Africa, US, UK, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and the Far East, that uses a basic analogy. To help us understand, “Just as the flow of water can be manually shut off at many points from the water plant facility to a home faucet, so can the flow of pornography be shut off at many points from the Internet service provider to a customers device.”

To elaborate , SafeDNS shared that their service equips ISPs, big or small, through cloud-based technology to filter a “near-perfect 98,3% of requests to adult content” on the Internet before it reaches an ISP customer's device. On their website, they share various case studies from around the world where they have uniquely helped Internet providers, both fixed connection and mobile alike, to provide Internet filtering solutions tailored to the ISP’s needs. They explained that, through DNS filtering, the installation of hardware and software is not needed but rather the technology is “cloud-based” making the entire process financially and technologically reasonable and not burdensome. Michael Davies, CEO of RDI, also explained that the process of redirecting the DNS server (which makes the filtering possible) is easy and “takes only minutes.”

There is also the role of the parent, guardian and the carer. With many kids having 24/7 access to tablets, laptops and smart phones, now more than ever it is also time for parents to have frank discussions with their kids about viewing habits, online safety, and, yes, pornography. Information on online safety and technology for kids is everywhere, but yet the topic of easy access to porn is rarely addressed or discussed. With unlimited access to their devices, kids are using their phones for entertainment, distraction and, yes, for viewing porn. Kids as young as 10 years are a swipe away from free hardcore porn with African traditional parents underestimating how much porn their teens have seen.

Parents of teens, boys and girls, should be furnished with the education, skill set, and confidence to have the first of many courageous talks with their kids. There are lots of online resources that teach parents how to recognise and respond to the role pornography can play in sexual violence, unhealthy relationships, negative self-image, sexual dysfunction, depression, sexually transmitted infections, injuries and other issues.

There is now need to have institutions that recognise and address hypersexualised media and pornography as "the public health crisis of the digital age."

  • Mutisi is the CEO of Hansole Investments (Pvt) Ltd and the current chairperson of Zimbabwe Information & Communication Technology, a division of Zimbabwe Institution for Engineers. — +263772278161 or e-mail chair@zict.org.zw

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