Telecom regulator plans to invest Rs1 billion to filter ‘harmful’ internet contentIt is unclear what the government is trying to do as the technology to control content of internet sites is expensive and difficult to install, stakeholders say.
As concerns grow about the effect of allegedly harmful internet content in the society, the government has decided to install a software to block some content.
The proposed Rs1 billion system for filtering content on the internet has been expected to be implemented by mid-February, said Nepal Telecommunications Authority, the telecommunication and internet regulator.
According to advocate Baburam Aryal the issue of controlling internet content has been on the talks for a long time.
"The government, however, seems trying to control the internet system rather than using the existing laws," he said.
According to the authority, the plan was first mooted in 2011.
There are currently a number of laws like Electronic Transactions Act, Copyright Act, Privacy Act, and the controversial Information Technology Bill still to be passed into law as well as the criminal code and various laws that restrict content for children that governs the internet.
Speaking at a virtual programme on 'Internet Content Filtering on Nepal Context’, organized by the Tech Journos Forum on Saturday, Aryal said that there is no basis in Nepal to say clearly which material is obscene and which is not.
Some viewed that the government is going to bring such a rule to control the content of online media. As the elections have been announced, Aryal suspected that the government is trying to control the content on the internet.
"Harmful material should be addressed in a legal way. But the legal basis needs to be explained ,” said Aryal. “If the internet is controlled excessively, it will curtail civil liberties.”
Vijay Kumar Roy, director of the authority, said that they would do a study before implementing the system.
"We are currently studying the bandwidth traffic entering Nepal from various ports," he said. "The plan is to control the content on the internet on that basis."
He said that their plan was not intended to control the content of any individual or organisation.
However, stakeholders are not convinced.
Indiver Badal, a board member of the Nepal Internet Exchange, that promotes local internet traffic, said that before moving ahead with the plan, it is important for the government to be clear on what content needs to be filtered and whether it was possible to do that.
According to Badal, blocking internet content that comes through the internet packet can be done through the domain name system (DNS), which is a decentralized naming system for computers, services, or other resources connected to the internet and is currently used through the internet service providers.
“But now it seems that the government is looking at content inside internet sites,” said Badal.
But for that the technology is expensive and difficult to introduce, he said.
Dilip Agrawal, chairman of World Link, an Internet service provider, said the government is not clear regarding whether to filter or control internet content.
But, others are of the view that given the rising incidents of cyber crime, control of internet content is necessary even if it means making new laws.
"The police report shows that people between the ages of 20 and 30 are a victim of cybercrime as 52 percent of total victims are of this age group," said Sunaina Pandey, former vice-president of Federation of Computer Association Nepal .