Willem Velthoven 1 Jan 2011

The Porn Rule

Media advice for repressive regimes

During the past months we had many discussions about media censorhip and blocking by repressive regimes. It occurred to me that amazingly large parts of the population in their countries know so well how to avoid net filtering and blockage of internet services.

Where did they learn this?


Gedeblokkerde foto. - found on . site with instructions for unblocking blocked sites. gevonden op een blog met instructies over het deblokkeren van websites.

Actually most of these regimes have been systematically training their own populations in these techniques by blocking silly but highly desirable stuff.

The most common example being porn.

This is a tactical error.

By blocking porn, these governments stimulate large numbers of citizens to aquire the tech knowledge needed for circumventing net blockades...

Arguably, the number of citizens that is seriously interested in porn and willing to make real efforts to access it, is an order of magnitude larger that the part of the population that's into overthrowing the government.

So by blocking porn, these same governments are priming their population for the revolution. At least for the free flow of information part of the revolution.

Now that's not just a tactical error, it's really stupid.

So, my dear dictator, remember the Porn Rule:

“never block acces to trivial but desirable content if you expect to repress your population's acces to information at critical moments in your future”

I realised this truth more than 5 years ago when is was visiting the UAE fot Khatt foundations Kitabat conference. I discovered that all 35 Mediamatic websites were blocked there. This turned out to be caused by us sharing a range of IP addresses with an Amsterdam porn farm. The locals were surprisingly quick to show me how to get access to my own sites...

In those days the UAE were hardly blocking political content on the wwweb. It was mostly religiously inspired fear of skin color that made them filter the net

(In 2006, I decided to not write about this insight as to not warn these governments. By now I understand that they are so stubbornly stupid that they would not have taken my hint anyway)