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Analyzing the Idiotic Iceland Porn Ban

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Have you heard of the new Iceland porn born? Destined to be as completely ineffective as every other method of censorship that has come before it, Iceland is set to pass a new law outlawing the viewing of internet pornography within the confines of its volcanic borders.

My position should be obvious. If not, you can look at this to get a general idea. Just as I believe prostitution should be legal, I also believe the recording and distribution of sexual conduct between consenting adults should be free from government interference.

Iceland’s odd relationship with sex

Iceland has a bizarre relationship with sex and trade. Although the laws are so vaguely worded as to be almost unenforceable, strip clubs and pornography are actually outlawed. But the country is home to a penis museum that charges for entry. Plus television shows and movies are full of nudity, and cable TV packages are sold with hardcore porn channels included. To give Iceland credit where due though, it is according to many one of the easiest places in the world to hook up for casual no-strings-attached sex.

An adviser to the interior minister told The Guardian:

“We are a progressive, liberal society when it comes to nudity, to sexual relations, so our approach is not anti-sex but anti-violence. This is about children and gender equality, not about limiting free speech.”

It goes without saying that censorship is always done in the name of protecting some portion of society. And it’s usually claimed to protect children. Because who doesn’t want to protect children? Right? Regardless, it doesn’t make it any better.

What’s more? According to this:

A new scholarly analysis suggests that the more straight guys, especially those who are less educated, watch pornographic videos, the more they warm to same-sex marriage. The reason: Porn opens their mind up to accepting non-traditional sexual situations, like gay sex.

That’s something for Icelanders, who elected the world’s first openly lesbian head of state, to think about.

Internet censorship will fail

Besides, in this day and age it’s going to be next to impossible for a modern country connected to the internet by a million wires to end the transmission of sexual imagery. Thailand, China and South Korea have been trying it and it doesn’t work. Maybe the only place it is effective is a completely closed society like North Korea, though I’m sure the right people can get it there too. Don’t believe me? None other than the Christian Science Monitor has questioned the possibilities of actually banning internet porn:

In the age of instant information, globe-spanning viral videos, and the World Wide Web, can a thoroughly wired country become a porn-free zone?

The government of the tiny North Atlantic nation is drafting plans to ban pornography, in print and online, in an attempt to protect children from a tide of violent sexual imagery.

The proposal by Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson has caused an uproar. Opponents say the move will censor the Web, encourage authoritarian regimes, and undermine Iceland’s reputation as a Scandinavian bastion of free speech.

Gunnarsdottir said the committee is still exploring the details of how a porn ban could be enforced. One possibility would be to make it illegal to pay for porn with Icelandic credit cards. Another, more controversial, route would be a national Internet filter or a list of website addresses to be blocked.

That idea has Internet-freedom advocates alarmed.

“This kind of thing does not work. It is technically impossible to do in a way that has the intended effect,” said Smari McCarthy of free-speech group the International Modern Media Institute. “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 questions of the “harmfulness” of porn have already been answered by serious researchers. Forget about the ethical questions of whether or not the government should be in the business of “protecting the population” from things that are harmful (it’s a safe bet that alcohol is related to many more problems in Iceland than people fucking on video, should we expect a new attempt at prohibition?).

Luckily, according to Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland’s parliament says the ban has a “near zero” chance of being passed into law:

“Introducing censorship without compromising freedom of expression and speech is like trying to mix oil and water: It is impossible. I know my fellow MPs can often turn strange and dangerous laws into reality, but this won’t be one of them.”

Let’s hope she’s right, for everyone’s sake.

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2 Comments

  1. Louise March 20, 2013
    • rockit March 20, 2013

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