Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

The Ethical Attitudes toward Internet Pornography in Islamic Societies: Kuwait as a Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Information Ethics

The Ethical Attitudes toward Internet Pornography in Islamic Societies: Kuwait as a Case Study

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Pornography has a long history, but the Internet as an open technology has added another dimension to the issue by making control more difficult. It is widely believed that Internet pornography is one of the most profitable ecommerce industries. The total porn industry revenue for 2011 was $97 billion worldwide (TopTenREVIEWS, 2011). It is estimated that there are over 4.2 million pornographic sites on the Internet, with as many as 10,000 added every week. Seventy percent of men aged 18 to 24 visit porn sites in a typical month. According to compiled numbers from respected news and research organizations, every second, $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography (TopTenREVIEWS, 2011). Every second, 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography. In that same second, 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines (TopTenREVIEWS, 2011). There are also 2.5 billion e-mails per day that are pornographic, and 35 percent of all Internet downloads are pornographic (Marylandcoalition.org, 2012).

It was believed that pornographic materials are mostly consumed in western countries, but surprisingly, Internet pornography appears to be popular in Muslim countries as well. According to Google Trends (2011), the term "Sex" is being searched mostly by people in Muslim countries; up to 70 percent of files exchanged between Saudi teenagers' mobile phones contain pornography, and over 30 percent of all traffic from the country at any given time is directed to porn websites.

With 4.2 million pornographic websites (12 percent of total websites, 420 million pornographic pages) and daily pornographic search engine requests exceeding 68 million (25 percent of total search engine requests), Internet pornography raises many important ethical questions. Under what condition can we say pornography is immoral? Do all forms of pornography cause harm to others? Is the right of speech absolute? What are the limits to be imposed on information provided to the public through the Internet? Under what circumstances is censorship of any media justified?

Kuwaiti society, as other modern societies where the Internet is widely available, is highly subjected to the impact of Internet Pornography, especially among the young. The population of Kuwait has reached approximately 3.065 million (1,089,969 Kuwaitis and 1,975,881 expats). Among Kuwaiti citizens, 35 percent of them are in the range of 18 to 35 (Central Statistical Bureau of State of Kuwait, 2010). Although there are no statistics indicating the consumption quantity of pornographic materials in Kuwait, it is widely believed that pornographic sites on the Internet are widely viewed by Kuwaiti youth.

The aim of this study is to investigate how the new developments in ICT affected the cultural norms in Kuwait, and to identify the ethical attitudes in Kuwaiti society as a representative of Islamic societies generally regarding Internet pornography.

2. Nature and Forms of Pornography

Before we discuss the morality of pornography, we need to identify the nature of pornography and the varied forms of it. There are many ways of defining pornography (Rea, 2001). By far, the most prominent definition in the literature is the one that defines pornography as any written or visual material that depicts nudity and/or sexually explicit activity for the purpose of causing sexual [arousal].

The word "pornography" is an umbrella for many forms of explicit sex. Since we are talking about Internet pornography, we are going to confine the discussion to Internet visual forms of pornography. Pornographic materials can be divided into two main categories: soft-core and hard-core. Soft- core pornography features naked women. It highlights breasts and genitalia but shows no sexual intercourse. Hard-core pornography, on the other hand, includes various forms of sexual penetration between two or more people. Obscenity is the legal and academic term referring to hard-core pornography. …

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