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18 March, 2017 12:33:24 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 18 March, 2017 10:25:20 AM
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Govt bid to block porn websites goes in vain

FAISAL MAHMUD
Govt bid to block porn websites goes in vain

The government’s attempts to block major porn websites have apparently failed, as none of the websites that it listed for blocking is currently blocked. Last December, state minister for post and telecommunications, Tarana Halim, said her ministry had prepared a list of 500 major porn websites having the highest numbers of viewers from Bangladesh.
After that, the list was forwarded to the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) as well as to internet service providers (ISP) and to international internet gateway (IIG) service providers.
The ISP and IIG service providers immediately took action. These porn websites, including www.xivideos.com, www.pornhub.com and www.xxx.xom, which had the highest number of viewers from Bangladesh, were all blocked, among others.
At that time, this correspondent from The Independent checked and found those websites to be blocked. Incidentally, these websites are again open now. Apparently, no porn site is blocked.
The Independent contacted several ministry officials, but none of them could specifically say why these sites are currently open.
One official told The Independent, preferring

anonymity, that the decision to block websites was an impossible one, and the government has backtracked from it almost immediately after taking it.
Explaining the reason, the official said a large chunk of internet traffic in any country is pornographic content. With the blocking of porn website, the bandwidth usage is drastically reduced.
An ISP provider told The Independent that blocking porn websites is a bad decision for business. Besides, it is practically impossible to block porn websites, as there are several ways of accessing those.
BTRC secretary Sarwar Alam, however, asserted that the government has not backed out from its decision to block porn. He added, “We are finding effective ways to do so.”
When asked why the blocked sites are open, he said he would have to look into the matter.
Cyber expert Hasib Muammar Rashid said when it comes to the question of blocking porn websites, the government was just wasting its time.
He said to block content, the Bangladesh government—with the help of ISPs and IIGs—used a list-based approach. This means a list of websites, with their exact uniform resource locators (URLs), are fed into a system. Access to these sites is then denied to users.
But it can be easily bypassed if the blocked website decides to create a mirror site or if it changes its name, explained Hasib Rashid.
“The list-based filtering system can also be defeated if a website decides to encrypt the traffic by using HTTPS instead of HTTP, because then the internet service providers cannot see what a user is accessing.”
He said the blocks and content filtering can be made more robust with keyword-based filtering or by employing deep packet inspection of the internet traffic. “This is something China or countries like Saudi Arabia do, but it is also vastly more expensive and difficult to maintain.”
Adult websites are just one part of the internet. There are other communication protocols that internet users follow. “For example, even if websites are banned, porn can be downloaded using Bit-Torrent technology. Similarly, peer-to-peer networks like eMule or Bulletin Boards can be used to download and share files, including porn files.”
Porn is fairly easily and widely available on the web and clamping down on it is near impossible, unless the government is willing to spend crores every year just to keep an updated web content filtering system in place, said Hasib Rashid. Besides, no government generally bans porn sites as they are the biggest drivers of e-commerce intervention, he added.
“The intention is good, but the government should not bite off more than it can chew.” Hasib Rashid said the US and China tried to fight porn and saw its results, and then they only limited themselves to child pornography. “In the last two years, the UK and India tried very hard to block porn websites in their countries, but they failed.”

 

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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