Reporters Without Borders

BlackBerry filters out porn sites in response to government's demand

BlackBerry filters out porn sites in response to government’s demand

Published on Thursday 20 January 2011.
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Research In motion (RIM), the Canadian company that makes the BlackBerry smartphone, announced today that it is blocking access to pornographic websites on its smartphones in Indonesia in response to the government’s demand.

Without taking a position on the content of the blocked sites, Reporters Without Borders is worried by any form of content filtering, the effectiveness of which has been questioned in many expert reports.

Filtering can be circumvented by those who exchange pornographic content while trials in Germany, Australia and other countries have confirmed the danger of over-blocking, in which content that is not targeted is also blocked. Once filtering mechanisms have been put in place, there is also a danger of their being used to block other kinds of content, which opens the door to more drastic forms of online controls.

Tifatul Sembiring, the minister of communications and information technology, had set tomorrow as the deadline for RIM to comply with the government’s demand. “Thank God,” he posted on his Twitter site (@tifsembiring) today. “Pornography has started to be blocked.”

Playboy (www.playboy.com) was one of the many sites that became unavailable to Indonesia’s 2 million BlackBerry users today following the announcement.

Reporters Without Borders is meanwhile also concerned about RIM’s negotiations with the Indian government, which is demanding access to smartphone users’ encrypted emails on national security grounds. The authorities have already reached an interim arrangement with RIM for accessing its messenger services.

The government has set 31 January as the deadline for a definitive agreement. Reporters Without Borders urges the parties to keep the public informed about the continuing talks.

Reporters Without Borders reminds BlackBerry users that they are invited to visit Project RIM Check (http://rimcheck.org/), a website created by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, in order to provide information that enables the project to establish the levels of control and monitoring of BlackBerry smartphones in different countries (read the article).

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