1 Year Later: Gaza Strip Online Porn Ban Holding Strong

Aug 21, 2013 7:15 AM PST

PALESTINE — After a year since its inception, an Internet porn ban in the Gaza Strip is holding strong, blocking access to nearly 80 percent of the population.

Filtering initiated by the ruling Hamas Islamic Palestinian political party bound all ISPs in the region, virtually handcuffing all adult content

The government's Ministry of Communications' Osama al-IssawI said last year that the action was being taken to “protect the fabric of society.”

According to AL-Monitor, Ziad Sheikh Dib, director of the licensing department at the Ministry of Communications, said that the filters are automatically applied whenever citizens use the Internet within the Gaza Strip. He pointed out that the new system no longer allows users to enable or disable the protection system as was possible when the Internet was connected to the old ADSL land line.

Walid Kassab, director of the region’s main ISP, Hadara Company, explained that the new BSA system that operates under universal technical standards opened the door to more ISPs and each began using its own filtering program.

But Dib did admit using proxies could circumvent the filtering.

“This decision serves regular Internet users. Those looking for these kinds of films, however, will find a way to obtain them, either by sharing DVDs or videos or by using a chip that provides them with Internet through a network that is not local [VPN],” Dib said.

Some users agree, and point out that the ban simply makes the forbidden more desirable.

“This step will only lead people to further search for such sites, especially with the existence of programs that penetrate the filtration system, knowing that some of these programs are automatically enabled on some iPads and smartphones,” Y.G., an activist told AL-Monitor.

Another user said, “There must be a moral ban that stems from a culture of community, rather than an automatic ban that stems from a governmental decision. I, as a young man, am content with downloading popular foreign films from various websites, and sometimes they contain such scenes."

In reaction to the Hamas’ ban in 2012, Sex.com gave away a free emergency porn package to users over 18 that included a DVD and an eight GB flash drive of photos and videos.

Palestinian writer Tawfiq Abu Shomar, said that the ban is a waste of effort. "We merely use the Internet, we don't have an influence on the global network. This is what we should pay attention to, not the banning of websites. If someone wants to open one of these sites, there are other networks in Gaza such as Orange and Thuraya — blocking them won't work. For the future, we must learn how to live in an open society."

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