Content Regulation & Censorship

Posted 26 March 2007

The pool of writers illuminates some of the tensions faced at the IGF and in countries in Asia (Philippines, India, Pakistan) and Latin America (Peru, Uruguay) when dealing with content regulation and censorship from gender perspectives.

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GENDER CENTRED: A thematic bulletin

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Content Regulation & Censorship

I. SMALL THOUGHTS AROUND…. Content Regulation & Censorship



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I. SMALL THOUGHTS AROUND…Content Regulation & Censorship

by Jac sm Kee

full version:

Content regulation is one gesture away from censorship and surveillance practices. The tension between managing content that could potentially result in harm towards a section of the population (e.g. spam) and silencing of viewpoints (e.g. lesbian issues) is not an easy one.

While we were preparing this edition, women’s rights advocates – both male and female – in Iran sent out a solidarity call to bloggers to help disseminate information about their “One Million Signatures Campaign”. In less than 2 weeks, the campaign site has been blocked 3 times by the Iranian government. On 3rd March 2007, more than 30 women involved in this advocacy effort were arrested during a peaceful protest. While most were released on 9th March, Mahboubeh Abbhagolizadeh and Shadi Sadr were only released later, after spending 10 days in solitary confinement. Clearly, there is no disconnection between online censorship and offline censure.

How can a feminist perspective intervene in the field of content regulation and censorship? Is there a point of particularity of being a female subject negotiating self-representation and representations of others in this field? How can advocates of women’s human rights, advocates of development, civil and political rights activists as well as feminists navigate the terrain of content regulation and censorship without inadvertently overlooking important perspectives and impact that affects sections of society differently?

The team of writers surfaces some of the tensions faced at the Internet Governance Forum, and countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa when dealing with content regulation and censorship from gender perspectives in this edition. We also feature as resources, a video short and paper by Namita Malhotra interrogating how women's movements in India negotiate issues around sexuality and censorship in the context of wider legislative, cultural, and ethical debates on pornography, and Mavic Cabrera-Balleza reflections upon the "Content regulations from gender and development perspective” panel organised by the Assocation of Progressive Communications, Women's Networking Support Programme at the first IGF held in Athens, Greece from 30 October to 02 November, 2006.

For more information about the "100 Signatures Campaign" and related activism, see:

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Mommy knows best, or perhaps the church, or maybe the school? A conversation on online content regulation

by Mavic Cabrera-Balleza

Who decides on what we should see and not see online? Should parents decide on behalf of their children? Or should it be the church? Or the school? Are women and children better left alone? Mavic Cabrera-Balleza, Senior Programme Associate of the International Women’s Tribune Centre and a member of the GenderIt blogging team at the first Internet Governance Forum (IGF) that took place in Athens, Greece from October 30- November 2, 2006 spoke with two other IGF participants—Caroline Wamala from Uganda and Itir Akdogan from Turkey on gender issues in internet governance and online content regulation. Following are excerpts from their conversation.

Women and Philippine Media: At the Fringes of Freedom

by Nina Somera

Where are women located in the struggle for freedoms to express, create and disseminate information through ICTs as media? Censorship comes in multiple forms in the Philippines. The country has one of the highest counts of media practitioners who are killed in the course of their work in the region. Yet, it retains a conflicting standing as one of the open media landscape in South East Asia. Whichever the reality, gendered expectations and roles seem to play out in this field, from ‘old’ tech, to the new. As the Church, the President, democratic and economic mechanisms struggle for authority through control of what can or cannot be said in various media, female sexuality becomes a site for contestation and (re)appropriation.

The contented and the discontented: internet content regulation

by Jorge Bossio

What does it take to regulate content on the internet? The apparently unruly character and development of the internet and accompanying technologies have been argued as defeating any efforts to truly govern how content is circulated in this space. Nonetheless, censorship and regulation is real. Here, Jorge Bossio examines various categorisations of content that enables their regulation, as well as strategies implemented in Peru, calling for greater individual responsibility and awareness in the constitution of harm.

Pakistan’s Web of Censorship

by Reba Shahid

The internet has become a critical space for ordinary citizens in Pakistan to speak their minds, and exchange information. These include women who sharpen their ICTs skills and turn to weblogs as a platform for articulation of their concerns and daily lives, and to engage in conversations sometimes blacked out as ‘taboo’. But is this relative ‘freedom’ under threat? This article presents an overview of the country’s internet regulation mechanism, and how a recent banning of blogspot has revealed the multiple attempts by the government to control content in cyberspace.

Content, Contingencies and Conflict on the Internet

by Cecilia Gordano

As both a mirror and an extension of social relationships, the internet’s virtual space differentiates itself from traditional media by its decentralised and open architecture. This subverts power relationships between citizens, institutions, governments and markets. Confusion. Impunity. Unbounded freedom. Can and should this anthill be organised? What is the ethical reach of doing so? This article proposes to take up some of the important issues regarding the content that circulates through the network. To this end, this article presents the qualified opinion of two Uruguayan professionals from government and academia.

Visit the collection of a wide variety of other resources and articles related to this issue on the communication rights section:

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Search history: Examining pornography on the internet

Namita Malhotra examines in this paper, the discourse of pornography in relation to the internet in India. She interrogates the Indian women's movements negotiation with issues around sexuality and censorship, as well as the various legislative, cultural, and ethical debates that intersect around this issue in recent years.

Content Regulations From Gender and Development Perspectives: Some Thoughts & Suggestions for Next Steps

Mavic Cabrera-Balleza reflects upon the "Content regulations from gender and development perspective” panel organised by the Assocation of Progressive Communications, Women's Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) at the first IGF held in Athens, Greece from 30 October to 02 November, 2006. The report highlights some of the important points raised in the discussions, and provides some follow-up actions that can be taken on the issue of content regulation.

Do Not Look at Porn...

The video presents different perspectives on pornography in the context of internet and other media. This presentation was prepared for the panel “Content regulations from gender and development perspective” organized by APC WNSP during the first Internet Governance Forum (Athens, October 2006).

Violence Against Children in Cyberspace

This report is intended to augment the United Nations Study on Violence Against Children. Launched on 11 November 2005, the report examines forms of violence against children encountered through the internet and other forms of digital technologies, including "child pornography, 'live' online sexual abuse for paying customers, online sexual solicitation, cyber stalking and bullying, and access to illegal and harmful materials". It also looks at how the internet has been used to facilitate child sex tourism and trafficking. The report also provides some policy recommendations to address some of the issues raised.

Women's human rights: violence against women, pornography and ICTs

The position paper presented y by Jac sm Kee from APC WNSP at Women Claiming The Information Society (WOCTIS), 11 September 2005, Berlin, examined the relationship between violence against women and information societies, using the recent debate about '.xxx' as a site for examination.

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