Pornography on the Internet is a new kind of plague spreading all over the world. It is seamlessly tearing apart the fabrics of societies, visibly corrupting the public morals, and damaging the institution of family. It is also here in our society and every Web user is aware of its presence.
“More than 60 percent of the country’s Internet users are visiting porn sites,” BBC reported quoting Pakistani telecoms officials. But many local users are still unaware of its impact and hence are indifferent about the need to combat this threat; some has simply chosen to ignore its presence. Even talking about pornography on any forum is considered taboo.
Like it or hate it, explicit images of nakedness on the Internet are popular. Free and easy access to naked flesh engaged in various acts is extremely popular.
Let me hurry to add a disclaimer that the Internet cannot be blamed for this because it is merely a tool; neutral, if you will. Restricting access to the Internet is also not a solution. Similarly, Playboy, Penthouse, or Hustler cultures overseas cannot be held responsible for exporting the trend here.
Dr. Irfan Mahmud Chaudhry, a psychotherapist in Lahore says, “Viewing nudity is a personal penchant that may lead to addiction and many other negative behavioural changes.”
Pornography began spreading with the advent of the Internet as a new medium of communications in the middle 1990s. Earlier, like the video cassette recorders and even earlier like printed material, the Internet has been effective because it allows viewing pornography anonymously in an absolute privacy without fear of being pointed out as sex-starved or a perverted psychopath.
Experts predict that cable modems and DSL connections will fuel even more growth in the trend. No wonder some people in the world have not only accepted porno but playfully heap it with high brow attention and defend it?
The technology allows access to and distribution of pornographic material — explicit graphics as well as textual — primarily via websites, peer-to-peer software, IRC, Usenet, blogs, and now through webcams to large audiences beyond geographical boundaries without meaningful restraints. Some of the programs even work independently of Web browsers like Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator, and can bypass many filters designed to block pornography and other objectionable material.
Content developer, distributors and all other who are involved in this evil activity are morally insensitive and enslaved by greed. They know the instinctive lure of human being and are capitalizing on it in a big way. NetRatings has estimated 34 million visits to porn sites in only one month. All this browsing has caused number of pornography Web pages to mushroom up to millions during the past few years.
Cyber porno has already become an industry and is in rapid expansion mode with huge sums involved in the field. Subscription services have come up, charging a fee to deliver access to large sites along with hundreds of small affiliate sites, generating a lot of revenues. Free contents are posted frequently in an effort to entice surfers to visit repeatedly, to sign up and gain instant access. Contents are generated and distributed elsewhere but empirical evidence is that the users’ market is rapidly growing here in our society.
The happening is not new, of course. It has been there in some form or the other. But what is unprecedented in the age of personal computers and the Internet is this: the mass consumption of cyber porno moving way beyond the pathetic stereotypes into the potent mainstream, the use of the Internet to rummage the smut, assault of covert and overt signals from different web sources and exposure to inappropriate sexual themes.
With some odd exceptions, the viewing of naked images is sinful in most religions. Different schools of thoughts and cultures also consider it at least objectionable, an idea of the Internet as a tool of free speech and issues of civil rights and liberties notwithstanding. Besides being degrading to humanity, “the act (of viewing porno) is harmful physically as well as mentally,” says Dr. Irfan Chaudhry.
One aspect that caught the world attention first is that children, who cannot distinguish what is right from what is wrong, might fall easy prey, hence they should be protected. It is one of the few areas which have been subject to law enforcement activities in many countries.
There have been measures aimed to restrict this happening, but the material remains widely available, much of it for free. That led to increasing demand for software products by concerned parents who are in the know of the matter, which could filter Web pages. A number of software developers have made big profits by selling filtering programs though nothing seems to be working.
Web filtering software is far from perfect. Some block many innocent sites along with the objectionable sites rendering the Internet experience as discouraging. “There is no demand for porno blocking software,” says an IT graduate and software vendor Azmat Hayat in Lahore. Another reason that efforts at restricting the viewing of pornography over the Internet have been largely ineffective is because of the high demand, which make restricting very difficult if not impossible.
Viewing pornography is a clear violation of the divine directives and suggested way of life in the first place. It reinforces sinful feelings. Scientific research even in more liberal societies has shown the profound effects pornography can have on human behaviour: thoughts, speech, desires, expectations, actions, habits, and lifestyle. It has been established beyond doubt that looking at pornography causes one to lust and leads to a desire to commit adultery. Continuous viewing of pornography over period leads to destructive addiction with seismic results. Even innocent users can have profound effects when by chance come to know of the seedier side of the Internet.
The dangerous effects of porno plague are not just for children. They are on victims of all ages.
So what should be done? First, every one must teach himself to live within the limits set by Allah the exalted. Parents (and elders) should set a positive personal example for the younger generation and guide them through the new experiences in life. The subject should be discussed deliberately and thoroughly. Raise awareness at home, in school, in mosques and at all other places of learning with the logic and reasoning in step with technology and the information age. Those peculiar net cafes should be regulated making them useful public places to view information restricting their ability to sit behind partitions and look for obscene material.
Pornography as it exists on the Internet and its proliferation is a global problem and should be taken as a global challenge. It is not an easy task, however. Nations of the world should join hands to combat it. Every one from major Internet providers and industry giants to local Internet Services Providers and net café owners should take steps to fight the dilemma.
Search engines should exclude the pages containing explicit material from their databases making it difficult for surfers to find them. Intellectuals, scholars, and writers should endeavour to shape the public opinion of all segments of society and shield people from the copious amount of explicit material flying freely in the cyber space.
I am decidedly anti any type of sensor in any form whatsoever, but the governments should enact strict laws against creation, hoisting, and distributing the contents that are immoral and harmful for the humanity. To me it is not a sensor. It is effort to make the Internet a safer place for users by balancing the rights of the individuals against the rights and needs of society as a whole. Nothing should be left undone to do that.