Porn ban on net and mobiles mulled by South Africa

Image caption,
Current leglislation bans child pornography but not adult material

A South African government official is proposing a complete ban on digitally distributed pornography.

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba has approached the country's Law Reform Commission to ask whether a change in the law is possible.

He has also had talks with the Justice Alliance for South Africa (JASA), a respected group which has written its own draft bill on the issue.

Internet security experts have dismissed the idea as "madness".

"Cars are already provided with brakes and seatbelts... There is no reason why the internet should be provided without the necessary restrictive mechanisms built into it," said Mr Gigaba.

'Wild west'

JASA proposes that the ban, covering TV but also mobile phones and the web, could be implemented in the form of filters set by internet service providers.

Countries such as Australia and China have already developed filters to block access to certain websites.

Graham Cluley of security firm Sophos said previous attempts by other nations to ban pornography had not been successful.

"One wonders how on earth a democracy like South Africa would be able to introduce such a system, as it's not as though the state has 100% control over telecommunications," he told BBC News.

"Although their intentions may be honourable, it's barking mad to think you will be able to completely outlaw pornography from the web which, is after all, the modern equivalent of the wild west."

Pornography is a subject of ongoing debate in South Africa. A terrestrial television channel called ETV caused a storm of controversy when it began broadcasting adult material after midnight in 2002.

In 2010 a propoosal by satellite broadcaster Multichoice to offer a 24 hour pornography channel was abandoned after a deluge of complaints.

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