A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Marwan Juma, former Minister of ICT, on Internet Censorship

From his Facebook:

“I have an obligation to speak up! Not because I ran the first company that brought email to jordan, or was one the founders of Jordan’s REACH initiative, and not because I recently served as Minister of ICT, but because what is taking place in our sector, namely the attempt to censor the Internet, is simply wrong if not bone-headed! And I will explain here why:

1. It doesn’t work!
Countries who tried to block sites failed and failed miserably! It costs millions and simply doesn’t work! There are VPNs, proxies and other means to beat imposed blocks so why even try it to start with? The Internet is like a tidal wave and if you attempt to get in the way you will be swept aside if not buried alive! In addition, very often harmless sites get blocked because they may contain words that are deemed offensive, (such as women’s health sites when they refer to “breast” cancer for example). Basically we will end up with a complete mess on our hands!

2. There are laws in place already!
There is a cybercrime law in Jordan that specifically addresses the issue of promoting pornography to minors with stiff penalties and jail terms! And this is the real threat here and it already has been addressed. So why complicate matters now?

3. Where do we draw the line?
First it starts with porn and then it could evolve to other sites or issues that are deemed offensive! We are opening a pandora’s box here that will be impossible to close. And if we block sites do we want to block email that contains adult images and videos? Or block satellite TV that contains nudity? Where do we draw the line here?

4. The government is NOT our baby sitter!
Parents should be concerned with their kids welfare and what they do on the web and not the government! This is George Orwell’s Big Brother in its ugliest form! And while we are at it, why stop at porn? Why not let the government block Sony Playstation and Nintendo because our kids are playing games for hours or even Facebook because it distracts them from their studies! Is this what we really want? The government to act as our baby sitter? The only control that works is parental control, and mothers and fathers need to be aware what their kids are doing at all times, whether online or offline. If anything, we should invest in educating parents since the fear of the unknown is what we need to collectively fight. Instead of wasting millions on futile attempts to censor and block sites why not invest the same amount to train and educate parents so they can make more educated and intelligent decisions?

5. Control should be at the user level!
The Internet should be free and untouched and those who want clean and filtered Internet can request it from their service provider, (and accordingly pay for the service), or download one of the hundred apps, (free otherwise), that already exist to block porn.

6. It infringes on freedoms!
In the age of openness and in the midst of the Arab Spring, do we really want governments to infringe on our freedoms?! If a certain mature individual opts to download porn in their own private setting well it is their prerogative, and no one has the right to interfere here! Pure and simple!

7. It damages our IT industry!
Jordan’s IT industry, which has become a real success story with Amman often labeled as the Silicon Valley of the Middle East, was built on the premise that the Internet is open and without restrictions. Government intervention will send the worst possible message to investors and major companies who chose Jordan as their hub and will scare away potential new players. And in these tough economic times we really can’t afford to inflict damage on one of Jordan’s few bright spots and major source of high end employment!

8. It is a black eye for Jordan at the worst time possible!
In the midst of a region of control freaks and enemies of the web, Jordan has been the shining example of openness and freedom, resulting in many investments that enabled us to build our flourishing industry. And now almost 20 years later, and after serving as a model for the rest of the Middle East, we want to go back in time to the dark ages and put our heads in the sand, and at the worst possible time ever! This is what is often referred to as a self inflicted wound!

For these reasons, I am 100% against this latest stunt, and for these reasons I chose to speak up! We have many other issues of major concern that require our attention and focus. Let us keep the Internet open and free and maintain Jordan’s position as a vanguard in the IT industry and protect our image as a country of openness and tolerance.”


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1 Comment

  1. Ok? And whats next? How can we now prevent this idiotic decision? I personally will apply for leaving this country for good the second they apply it!

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