Online pornography in Africa
Every underage is an outlaw in this world when it comes to enjoying pornography.That includes 23-year-old Rhoda (not her real name), a resident of Entebbe Uganda,who admits she loves watching porn, and has done so since high school.“I enjoy watching porn.I share and exchange porn clips and movie files with my friends,” she said while having a chat with a friend of mine who happens to her cousin.For the sake of her hobby, Rhoda is risking a criminal record, playing down Uganda government’s existing ban against pornographic content on the Internet.She confesses to sometimes contacting her nephew currently studying in US to download some x-rated movies from the Internet. According to the current the Computer and Electronic Law in Uganda, Rhoda is considered a criminal as she deliberately distributes pornographic content through the Internet, and could face charges with both jail and heavy fines.But Rhoda is not the only one considered a criminal in the eyes of the law. In fact, it would appear the law has turned everyone into a criminal.The government has banned online pornography for the last few years and I fully support that because why would a tween have access to adult films?. The Ethics Minister Rev Minister Francis Lokodo ordered local service providers to start blocking access to pornographic websites, a decision that reaped controversy because experts doubted its effectiveness.
As predicted, the ban has been the subjects of many jokes, as people can still circumvent Internet restrictions and access pornographic content.Even a 13year old can do it Contador Harrison….Rhoda told me.“Most of my friends can access the banned websites from their phones and websites. All you need is blue tooth and a disk drive to get the files,” Rhoda says.The joke was again on the government when a respected female musician, Desire Luzinda, had her nude pictures shared by thousands of Ugandans online.Setting aside the political controversy that characterized the leaking of Dezire Luzinda, the public has been questioning the government’s ability to crack down on pornographic content on the net in the light of such scandals.How young people like Rhoda are able to access such content using an Internet connection in a reputable place equipped with Uganda government’s first class security system is still a mystery.But bypassing porn filters set up by the local authority is a no brainer.A Kampala-based plumber aged 27, says he can still download pornographic content from the Internet without any difficulties even though he has limited computer skills.He explained he had a number of alternative ways to make sure the government’s ban would not disrupt his supply of pornographic movies.“I can just go to torrent or mailing lists to get the latest x-rated material,” says the recently married man.
And if people encounter a porn-block, 31 years old Tanzanian Saidi Nassoro says, they can just ask Uncle Google, brother Yahoo or sister Bing for help to find ways of getting what they desire.Nassoro also shared that some local providers still allowed access to download porn.“You may not be able to find porn links with say provider A, but when you try others, they may give you access to pornographic content,” said Saidi Nassoro, who had been watching porn since junior high school days in Tanzanian commercial capital Dar-Es Salaam.Using the same method of access, another porn enthusiast who also goes by the fictitious name Jack Jacking, admits that when he was lucky, he could access websites that offered a variety of pornographic films without any hassle.“I think some providers still grant you the access to the banned sites,” the 36-year-old freelance journalist in Lusaka, Zambia.It is believed African countries must have had a similar experience. An online security expert working in East Africa admitted the filters set by the governments in Africa and the companies have their weaknesses, as they cannot keep up with the number of new pornographic websites appearing popping up on the Internet every day both in local languages with local actors and other foreign.In one of the company he’s consulting for, the company database is only capable of filtering two million websites with pornographic content, which is far below the rate of creation of Web pages on the Internet. It is said that more than 2 million new pages containing pornographic content are created every month and that is increasing at a very fast rate.
Given the gap between these numbers, it is believed that local Internet provider cannot deal with this issue. Actually, experts and media observers have warned African governments it would be “virtually impossible” to ban websites with pornographic content, even if the government spend all their annual budgets.Even an official from a regional think tank admitted African government’s attempts to ban pornographic content were hitting a brick wall and Uganda and many others are not an exception.Recently porn sites blocked have seen new sites with different name and different URL created.But I admire the Uganda government and Rev Minister Francis Lokodo in particular who has insisted it would do its best to continue blocking access to all pornographic sites in the country despite all the system’s shortcomings.However, it is the government’s loopholes in the system that make almost everyone in this country a criminal.Criminals in Africa are actually simply people taking advantage of the flaws in the government’s filtering system to access pornographic content from the Internet.In their defense, such criminals say it would be better if their governments focused on addressing more urgent issues rather than engage in a so-called mission impossible.“You can never control the Internet. It would be better for the government to do more important things like fight corruption or poverty,” said Rhoda, one of many outlaws.