Sunday, January 24, 2010

Our Stand On Web Filtering At ISP Level

This article is an offshoot of a special report at Manila published Sunday, 24 January 2010 00:00 entitled Internet cafés question law's provisions. The term "law" in the news refers to Republic Act No. 9775 otherwise known as the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009 where Section 9 mandates all Internet service providers to install available technology, program or software to ensure that access to or transmittal of any form of child pronogarphy will be blocked or filtered. We wish to reiterate our position on this provision by quoting some portions of the Manila Times special report as follows:

In the context of this legislative development, Mr. Ed Zafra of I-Café Pilipinas, the national consortium of Internet Café Owners and Operators in the country, reiterates that there is no need to initiate legislation on national ISP-level filtering to address child pornography. According to him, Internet Café owners in the Philippines have continuously been advocating against child pornography. In their respective businesses, Internet shops have been prohibiting access to pornographic materials.

In terms of profitability, Internet Café Owners believe that requiring all ISPs to install a filtering device will be detrimental to their business. Besides frequent disconnections, Internet connection speed advertised for cafés at say 3 Mbps (megabits per second) are in actual download tests averaging much less. Pilot testing on web filtering done in Australia showed that ISP performance would suffer network degradation of up to 70 percent if more accurate censoring will be performed (Meloni, 2008). The repercussion would be the need for Internet Cafés to subscribe to higher speed hence increasing DSL subscription costs.

Mr. Zafra also lamented the zeroing in on Internet cafes while most child pornographic materials are not accessed in public Internet Café Shops but through personal PC connections and purchased DVD containing pornographic materials.

Whether or not LGUs or national government agencies such as the NTC will allow the utilization of free and open source filtering software remains an issue. Installation of a filtering device requires license making it more expensive to run a small Internet Café business. Moreover, the installation of cyber filter software will also demand training and capacity building to all operators from the private and the public sector. The group also questioned how such broad policy will be financed considering the lack of resources, finance, and capacity among the government agencies especially concerned with the IT sector in the Philippines.
We wish to refer you to our white paper entitled On Anti-Child Pornography Bill which we published in July 17, 2009 when the newly enacted law was still on its second reading in both chambers of our legislative branch of government. Then and now, we stand against filtering the web at ISP level because of technical reasons as well as possible infringement of human rights.

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