Iceland Porn Ban: Proposal To Outlaw ‘Hardcore’ Pornography Sparks Outrage, Technical Doubts

 @jiillx on February 25 2013 6:20 PM

 

A government proposal to ban print and digital pornography in Iceland has outraged among opponents who believe iit would endanger free speech.

Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson proposed the measure in a move the government says will shield children from exposure to violent sexual imagery.

According to the Associated Press, pornography is, strictly speaking, already illegal in the small Scandinavian country; it reportedly has been for several decades. However, due to a reluctance to define the term “pornography,” it’s become something of a legal grey zone, and the law isn’t enforced. Icelandic bookshops commonly sell magazines like Playboy and Penthouse, and hardcore pornography can also be purchased at certain sex shops and from adult TV channels.

Jonasson’s political adviser Halla Gunnarsdottir said the intention of the new law is not to wholly prohibit all pornography, but rather to account for legal ambiguities in the existing law and prevent children from stumbling across violent material.

"When a 12-year-old types 'porn' into Google, he or she is not going to find photos of naked women out on a country field, but very hardcore and brutal violence," Gunnarsdottir said. "There are laws in our society. Why should they not apply to the Internet?"

Gunnarsdottir added that the bill is still in exploratory stages and the committee drafting it is still trying to fine-tune a strategy for how to enforcement might work. She said that one potential tactic would be to ban paying for pornography with an Icelandic credit card; another possibility, which has caused even more outrage among free-speech advocates, would be instituting a national Internet filter. Further complicating the debate is the government’s plan to define offensive material as anything with “violent or degrading content.”

Smari McCarthy, a free-speech advocated with the International Modern Media Institute, said such a filter would have unintended and problematic consequences.

"This kind of thing does not work. It is technically impossible to do in a way that has the intended effect," McCarthy said. "And it has negative side effects - everything from slowing down the Internet to blocking content that is not meant to be blocked to just generally opening up a whole can of worms regarding human rights issues, access to information and freedom of expression."

The Atlantic Wire also pointed out the structural inadequacies of building a nationwide Internet filter. As the publication noted, a similar attempt by Iran to ban the game “World of Warcraft,” resulted in thousands of users who managed to circumvent the law by using virtual private networks and proxy servers, proving “that you can’t exactly stop users who want something so badly they’ll find a workaround.”

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