To ban or not to ban

THE news that the UAE Telecommunication Regulatory Authority will unblock 1,000 Internet sites by August 29 is welcome news.

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Published: Fri 22 Aug 2008, 11:29 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:55 PM

The fact that the list of sites to be unblocked includes previously blocked medical sites and Internet forums is laudable. It has to be remembered that clean and useful sites may get blocked, while obnoxious and offensive ones, under the guise of innocent names could still be accessible. When the ocean of web sites is so vast, it is easy for some fish to evade the net.

As the deadline for the two Internet service providers — Etisalat and du — to comply with rule approaches, the question that still remains to be answered is, why ban them in the first place? The answers could vary, depending upon the site content. Popular social network sites like Orkut.com could pose threats to the largely young people who use them. With copious amount of personal data placed on such sites, the young are vulnerable to paedophiles and other unsavoury elements. Since such sites provide an ego wall, they have turned it into a lucrative source of personal information for identity thieves. It could also be a meeting place for fakesters — those who 'create' a fake person and post his/her profile. So you could befriend a person who doesn't even exist.

Of late, many flogs (fake blogs) have mushroomed which give the impression of being written by a satisfied customer of a product, but is, in reality, are maintained by PR agencies for their corporate clientele. All these seem innocuous and harmless in the light of the revelation by investigators that many perpetrators of terror get the know-how for making explosives on the Internet. When the information from how to get a fake passport to how to put together a napalm bomb is available at the touch of a button, all they have to do is follow the recipe. Admittedly, it is not easy to find a simple rationale to act as a guiding principle to block or unblock sites. The rationale itself may vary from place to place. What is harmless in a society could be objectionable in another.

Knowledge is no longer an esoteric property of an elite few. No one in this day and age disputes that it should be freely available, to provide a level playing field for all. But the question is, what constitutes knowledge? A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing. But once in the public domain, too much of it could prove even more dangerous. But who decides the dosage and how?



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