surveillance

South Africa Proposes Online Porn Block

The proposed law would block internet porn on all devices by default

Rebecca Duff
By Rebecca Duff

The South African Law Reform Commission (SALRC) has released a new paper discussing sexual offenses in the country in an attempt to review the laws surrounding adult content and how children are being exposed to it.

The document, which is over 400 pages long, focuses on how easy it is for children to access online pornography and how best to protect them from “exposure to pornography and child sexual abuse material.”

It goes on to recommend that: “[Legislation] should comprehensively criminalize all acts of exposing children to pornography and content not suitable for children, in whatever manner, including through advertisement and enticement or by making use of misleading techniques.”

The SALRC suggests that all devices, both new and second-hand, should be fitted with a default setting that blocks age-inappropriate online content. Users would be able to bypass these blocks by proving that they’re aged over 18.

The paper then goes on to explain that this will require two main changes to be made. Manufacturers and distributors of internet-connected devices would have to ensure that any default settings blocked access to online pornography, and electronic communications service providers would have to introduce a similar feature.

This ‘porn block’ would also extend to any companies that unlawfully and intentionally advertised pornography to children, or anybody who uninstalled the default block settings in order to allow a child to watch porn. It would also be a criminal offense not to keep some kind of register to keep track of when default blocks have been removed.

Following on from this discussion paper, the Commission said it will publish a report setting out its final recommendations along with a proposal for law reform by way of draft legislation, if required. The report will then be submitted to the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services for his consideration.

The Commission’s proposal comes just before very similar new regulations that are due to be introduced in the UK. Under the UK’s new ‘porn block’ system, commercial porn sites will be required to check and verify the age of any UK-based visitors.

Any websites that fail to comply with the new rules could be blocked by ISPs. The block has faced a great deal of criticism by privacy advocates and academics, who believe that it’s one of the least effective ways of dealing with the supposed issue.