Breaking Through Electronic Walls

Stephen Yagielowicz

Indonesia’s recent claim that it is blocking more than one million adult websites as part of its cultural cleanup efforts, adds a dose of reality to the widespread fear and hype over country-level blocking of .XXX domain names. In this case, it is clear that states do not need to rely on a website’s choice of TLD to determine whether or not to block it — as the bulk of Indonesian and other state-sponsored efforts, target adult dot-com domains.

Established tools such as black- and white-listing, textual and contextual scans, and newer tools such as increasingly sophisticated “pink skin” filters, strive to lay a level of control over what worldwide Internet users enjoy.

An increasing number of countries are blocking porn from their citizens. How can you get around their efforts — and is it worthwhile to bother trying?

As the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia is but one of several dozen countries that currently block porn sites, based upon cultural or religious beliefs, in an effort to keep adult entertainment from billions of consenting consumers.

While there may be little that you as a website owner can do to subvert a sovereign country’s content firewall or other state-sponsored means of digital censorship, your site’s visitors have an arsenal of tools at their disposal, such as virtual private networks (VPN) or other “tunneling” software using masked IP addresses and anonymous proxies, allowing them to access material that is out of favor with their local government.

Of course, these users have to know that your site exists and have a reason to visit it, before covert Internet surfing tools can come into play.

At which point, the question becomes, “does it really matter?”

Although it may be altruistic to support “freedom of speech,” from the vantage point of most commercial adult website operators, an audience is only a market if it has the ability and willingness to pay for your product or service.

Different operators will have different concerns, but many of the countries blocking porn are also the countries where online billing for adult offers may not even be possible, adding a further layer of considerations to global marketers seeking to breach the wall.