China is not the only country with Internet censorship. In attempts to block explicit content, some Muslims have attempted to create filters.
First, I’ll look at Im Halal search engine, halal meaning religiously permissible. It has two filters: the first gives you “clean results” for your search, while the second rates the results on a haram (forbidden) rating of 1 to 3, making it easy to block out “potentially sinful material“, using the words of The Times Online.
The second search engine is called Taqwa, “piety” in Arabic. Monday’s The Age featured this new site in an article titled “Search and chat website for the modern Muslim“. Frustrated at Internet filtering in Dubai, Melbournians Kerim Nu’man and Marwaa El Hassan created and developed Taqwa, “the Conscience Engine”, which allows users to judge Internet content themselves and discuss it with others. It has three Pac-Man like icons for users to rate the result as halal, haram, or debatable.
Let’s test these search engines out. I’ll experiment with the words “sex education”. Then, I’ll look up something more explicit, such as “nudity”. Finally, thanks to the tips on users from Whirlpool, I’ll bypass the blacklist by looking up “nudity education”. Yes, a strange term, but it’s an experiment to see how the different filters work. Here are the results on Google, Im Halal, and Taqwa.
SEARCH ONE: “sex education”
Google results: Results seem neutral to me. I blocked out the image from the video on the right. I don’t know why there’s a duck there, but I assume it’s a video for younger children. Links on the right turn on alarm bells.
Taqwa’s results: The first two links are from Yahoo Answers, then Pro Choice America, and a site on sex for teens by teens. Google seemed more informative.
SEARCH TWO: “nudity”
Verdict: If I were a Muslim parent and had to judge a search engine based on one search, I’d have my kid search on Taqwa.
SEARCH THREE: “nudity education”
Google: Wikipedia entry, a parent’s review of a movie that has nudity, the Sex Ed show, an advice column, and a debate of whether nudity is art on The Age. Given the strange combination of search terms, strange results are bound to come up.
ImHalal: We may have passed the filter, but we didn’t get much by doing so. This was the only relevant link, and it doesn’t focus on just the search term.
Taqwa: A warning on results, and then a link on asexuality. Well, there’s a Wikipedia entry.
Verdict: So we can pass blacklist terms, but we don’t get much by doing so.