75pc of public want tougher Web censorship

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 May, 2009, 12:00am

A survey on the review of the Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance shows the general public is more in favour of regulating cyberspace than the internet community.

More than 75 per cent of the 1,531 interviewees aged 15 or above think government regulation of obscene and indecent articles online should be 'stricter than it is now'.

However, out of these, 28 per cent did not use the internet, and only 22 per cent of internet users had used computer filtering software.

The poll was conducted by the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Programme under the commission of the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority (Tela).

The survey provides a drastic contrast with previous concerns from the internet community, which opposes tighter regulation for fear it might hinder the free flow of information.

Under government proposals to improve the regulation of obscene and indecent articles in the wake of the celebrity sex photos scandal last year, an independent classification board would be set up.

One option to improve the adjudication system of obscene articles is to set up a two-tier system under which an independent board would make interim classifications. The existing Obscene Articles Tribunal would remain as a judicial body to consider appeals against the board's decisions and deal with articles referred to the tribunal by courts.

The survey also revealed that the public's understanding of the ordinance was generally poor. Only 1 per cent could correctly define 'obscene' and 'indecent' articles and the regulation area of the ordinance.

Over 80 per cent agreed on what was not suitable for those under 18: photographs or pictures with descriptions of bestiality and necrophilia; contact between male and female genitals; images of decapitation; and displays of human internal organs.

Two-thirds agreed there should be a complete ban on photos or pictures showing sexual intercourse between humans and animals and necrophilia.

The head of the university's public opinion programme, Robert Chung Ting-yiu, said the public's understanding of the law was dubious and it appeared that people wanted better regulation of internet content. 'But they are not sure how to do it,' he said.

Tribunal adjudicator Mervyn Cheung Man-ping questioned the representativeness of the poll. He said the survey was a general one and supplementary studies should be carried out among various sectors, including education, social welfare and information technology.

He said the responses should be broken down according to different age groups for comparison. 'Those of middle age or younger would react very differently from those of a mature age,' he said.

The commissioner for Television and Entertainment Licensing, Maisie Cheng, said the poll results would be integrated with the 18,000 submissions that Tela had received from individuals and organisations during the consultation process. She hoped a second round of consultation could be completed within this fiscal year.