Global Economics

3G's Porn Problem in Asia


There are steps which legislators and service providers can take in order to curb unsavory content from reaching Web-enabled 3G (Third Generation) phones. Such measures are not entirely foolproof though, and it is still up to users to exercise discretion, according to industry observers.

Late last month, Cambodia Premier Hun Sen called for a ban on 3G phones in the kingdom after his wife and her friends reportedly received pornographic material on their 3G mobile phones.

But, could Cambodia have taken a less drastic route than banning 3G cellular services entirely?

Some industry observers suggest that, other than leave it to mobile phone users to exercise their own discretion, mobile operators could also deploy networking technology to curb offensive material running on their 3G networks.

Ray Owen, director of wireless broadband at Motorola Asia-Pacific, told ZDNet Asia that presently, there is no known software which can control the reception of undesirable material on a 3G mobile device, via the Internet.

However, from "an IT infrastructure perspective", Owen said that it is possible to control undesirable material from the Internet via standard Internet protection tools. Firewalls, for example, can be configured to block content from specified IP (Internet Protocol) addresses or sites. This is similar to what is commonly done for corporate and private networks.

He added that typically, mobile operators would be responsible for setting up content filtering devices and firewalls, which can be integrated into the network operation center--through the configuration of a network management system.

In Singapore, a country known for its strict censorship laws, content governing body Media Development Authority (MDA) has put in place "a light-touch regulatory framework" through its Class License scheme that specifies minimum standards for content delivered over the Internet and other new media services such as 3G.

Cassandra Tay, director of MDA's communications department, told ZDNet Asia: "Under this regulatory framework, licensees will have to exercise their own judgment and ensure that they abide by the guidelines in Class License which prohibit content that offends good taste and decency."

To address public concerns over undesirable content, Tay noted that MDA promotes public education initiatives such as the Voluntary Code for Self-regulation of Mobile Content, which has been adopted by the three mobile operators in Singapore--MobileOne, SingTel Mobile, and StarHub Mobile.

"This initiative is in response to concerns about minors having easy access to undesirable content on their mobile phones," she said.

StarHub Mobile spokesperson Cassie Fong confirmed the company currently adheres to content guidelines set by the Singapore government.

"We follow all of the government's codes of practice for content, and recently entered into an industry code of practice for mobile content," she said. "We do not offer adult content, nor do we allow our content partners to offer it over our network."

However, it will take more conservative countries some time to get used to new technology and its associated benefits, and ills.

Nokia's spokesperson Teresa Chang told ZDNet Asia: "The Internet browsing functionality [available] in mobile phones provides a new dimension to everyday communications, which like any other form of communications, can be misused or abused."

"In reality, in these situations, normally only a tiny fraction of users choose to misuse these technologies," she said. "Nokia strongly recommends people using phones with Internet browsing functionality, to use them with discretion and in accordance with local laws, regulations and customs."


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