Last modified: April 13, 1996 7:00 AM PDT
Asian countries face Net paradox
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Singapore, on the other hand, is apparently softening its position, in part because of the realization that widespread Internet control would be a massive undertaking, even in a relatively small city-state. "Even if the government can develop a screening process," said one Asian diplomatic source who insisted on anonymity, "technology will always catch up with ways to get around it."
This week, a ministry official said the government does not intend to crack down on the Internet, as had been feared when it announced in March that all local operators would be required to license themselves with the Singapore Broadcast Authority and be held responsible for whatever passed over their lines.
U.S. security experts say that blanket Internet restrictions would require far more than simple screening devices such as the SurfWatch software used by parents to block offensive material from children. For one thing, they note, it would be the service provider doing the filtering, not the user.
"You can use firewalls and set up filters any way you want. The hard part is how to administer it. I couldn't even speculate how many people it would take," said Jim Bidzos, president and CEO of RSA Data Security, based in Redwood City, California. "It's like setting up a DMV for the Internet and issuing driver's licenses, but only to the people you trust to use them. Then you have to monitor the way they drive."
Even if such a system were possible, others point out, there could be yet another way around it: the telephone. "What's to prevent you from dialing a long distance server in another country?" asked William Giles, a spokesman for CompuServe, the second largest online service. "If you can't get it here, you can telnet over there."
Besides, as UUNet's Scace put it, "There's only one way you can really keep people from getting access to Internet: take away their computers."
That's an alternative that many developing countries both inside and outside Asia may not be able to afford.