What’s the easiest way to compile a global list of pornographic websites? Ask a 15-year-old boy to do it for you.
That’s exactly what the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) did as part of an effort to clean up the Muslim country’s browsing habits.
Ghazi Muhammad Abdullah proved tireless in his search, finding almost 780,000 adult pages in six months.
“I consider this as my religious and national task to do. If my elders don’t do this for my generation, than I will do it for mine and forthcoming generations,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
Pakistan – literally “land of the pure” – has spent the past two years pondering how to control access to the internet.
In 2010 authorities temporarily blocked Facebook after blasphemous images of the Prophet Mohammed were posted online. Short-lived bans on YouTube, twitter and other sites followed.
Now the government has asked for tenders from IT companies to construct a website filtering system, which could prevent access to as many as 50m sites, angering activists who fear the system will limit political debate.
Abdullah said his campaign was inspired by reports that Pakistanis search online for terms related sex more than any other nation.
Google later refuted the headlines, saying the sample sizes were too small to be statistically significant.
However last year Ghazi wrote to the PTA asking why he was still able to find hundreds of pornographic sites online even after thousands had been blocked.
It replied by explaining it could ban sites only if it received a complaint about individual URLs.
So Ghazi, who lives in Karachi and wants to set up a software house when he finishes his studies, set about compiling a list. He started a campaign to scour the darkest recesses of the internet, roping in an IT professional to help with the software needed.
He is secretive about exactly how they did it, fearing it will help website developers evade the ban.
Ghazi, now 16, said he would continue his quest to prevent Pakistanis searching for porn.
“Its adverse effects are visible in several countries specially in the west where the family system has just collapsed,” he added.
Previous attempts to censor everyday life have occasionally proved comical, including efforts to clean up text messages.
Last year, regulators circulated a list of more than 1000 apparently obscene words and phrases to be banned from SMS services.
However, the plan was ditched when it emerged that the list was based on words banned from American football jerseys in the NFL, and included “tampon”, “headlights” and even “Jesus Christ”.