Legislation required to block pornographic websites, minister says

Communications and Information Technology Minister Hany Mahmoud said Tuesday that blocking pornographic websites would require parliamentary legislation, adding that the ministry is ready to implement a law once it is issued.

At a meeting with the Egyptian-Canadian Business Council on Monday, Mahmoud said the ministry knows how to block the sites and how much it would cost.

He also said the ministry had prepared a plan to block the sites but the People’s Assembly was dissolved before it could present it. The Supreme Constitutional Court ordered the People’s Assembly dissolved on 14 June after finding fault with the elections process.

Mahmoud explained that the public prosecutor did not decide to block the sites but rather asked for clarification on the matter from the ministry.

“We sent him a letter with the procedures we took in this regard, according to a court ruling issued in 2009 to block pornographic sites,” he said.

The plan that was prepared by the ministry said blocking the sites would cost US$10 million, and inquired about funding.

“We obliged Internet service providers to offer secure Internet software to help parents block those sites and protect their children,” he said. “Yet only 12 percent of total subscribers requested the software.”

The public prosecutor sent official letters to Mahmoud, the interior minister and the head of the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority on 7 November ordering that they block pornographic websites. 

Public Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud wrote that such websites show images that are contrary to the values and traditions of Egyptian society and the national interest, his spokesperson Adel al-Saeed said. 

The State Council Administrative Court in May 2009 decreed that the government should ban pornographic websites. The court said such websites help spread vice, which destroys traditions, beliefs and morals, and therefore the country’s interests as well as social and national security.

Many experts predict it is unlikely the government has the technological capabilities to carry out the blocks, but they warn that the prosecutor’s move is a dangerous step toward increasing government censorship.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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