Proposal to censor Web may be dropped

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 November, 2008, 12:00am

A controversial government proposal on censoring the internet, to protect children from online pornography, could be dropped amid fierce opposition, a senior official has suggested.

The divisive measure is a suggestion that internet service providers should be compelled to provide filtering software to strengthen the regulation of cyberspace. It is contained in a government consultation paper on the review of the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance, released last month.

The proposal's possible impact on press freedom dominated a discussion at a seminar on the review of the anti-pornography law yesterday, hosted by the Federation of Journalists at Shue Yan University.

Press groups at the seminar generally opposed the measure, warning the government could use it to censor information it does not like.

Other speakers complained that the operation of the existing Obscene Articles Tribunal was not transparent enough.

Undersecretary for commerce and economic development Greg So Kam-leung admitted the proposal had been unpopular. 'The views the government has heard so far are that the government should let the market lead.

'We do not want to see people worried too much. The government will not introduce any mechanism to censor cyberspace.'

Newspaper Society of Hong Kong chairman Keith Kam Woon-ting said most Hong Kong newspapers had been 'self-disciplined', and warned of unnecessary interference in the flow of information.

Lam Chun-tung, a representative of the Hong Kong Press Photographer Association, shared similar views and added: 'There is already an invisible line [of agreement on standards] in the society. There is no need for over-control.'