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So What’s This Porn Ban I Keep Hearing About?

So What’s This Porn Ban I Keep Hearing About?

Published March 8, 2013

Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson said last month that he is considering proposing legislation that would, among other things, give the Icelandic state the power to block pornography from being accessed from computers in Iceland through nationwide content-filtering.
 BOO HISS CENSORSHIP! BOO HISS BADMAN!
Nationwide content-filtering is not a new thing. It is most infamously done by China and other undemocratic regimes, but other states have done it as well. For example, the Norwegian state has a voluntary agreement with local internet service providers to block access to child pornography.
 WELL YES, NO ONE ACTUALLY MINDS IF PAEDOPHILES CAN’T ACCESS CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
Indeed. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy also threatened to make accessing websites related to terrorism a crime, though nothing came of that. Iceland’s Minister of the Interior has not actually proposed legislation yet, but merely indicated that he was considering methods, content-filtering among them, to limit access to pornography.
 BUT THE INTERNET TOLD ME THAT ICELAND WAS BANNING PORN!
As a member of the European Economic Area, Iceland is bound by most European Union directives, including one on electronic commerce that prohibits internet service providers from monitoring what their subscribers access and use.
AH YES, EU DIRECTIVE 2000/31/EC, I KNOW IT WELL. BUT IT WON’T STOP A NORWAY-LIKE SCHEME IF ISPS SIGN UP TO A PORN BAN.
That is unlikely as all of Iceland is not against pornography, though there are a number of people who think that there is too much of it. In fact, pornography is technically illegal according to Article 210 of the Icelandic Penal Code. Though as Ögmundur Jónasson points out, the law does not define what pornography is.
ACCORDING TO MY PENAL CODE, I KNOW IT WHEN I SEE IT.
That gets to the root of the matter. Ögmundur Jónasson wants to establish a committee to define exactly what is and is not pornography. However, that is notoriously hard to get a grip on.
WHY ALL THIS EFFORT? WHAT’S THE BIG PAYOFF AT THE END OF IT?
Ögmundur Jónasson feels that pornography is too easily accessible to people, that Iceland, much like the rest of the world, has been inundated by porn, much of which is of unclear provenance and ethicality. To quote the man himself: “I want to prevent access to an industry which profits from abusing people.”
NOW, THAT’S NOT FAIR. THE ADULT INDUSTRY IS REGULATED AND MONITORED… IN SOME PLACES.
Even the staunchest advocates of pornography would admit that the adult industry does not exactly go out of its way to make sure that all its products foreground female agency or, for that matter, consent.
BUT WHAT ABOUT FEMALE-FRIENDLY PORNOGRAPHY? JAMES DEEN IS FAMOUS NOW, YOU KNOW. RESPECTABLE MAGAZINES INTERVIEW HIM.
‘James Deen’ is another phrase you probably should not Google for. At least not at work. There is indeed female-friendly pornography. In fact there exists such a thing as the Feminist Porn Award. If you do not believe me, just Google for it. But wait until you are home. Still, that kind of material is something you have to look long and hard for, while the other kind of pornography is only a mistyped Google search away.
YEAH, I’VE HAD THAT HAPPEN WITH ‘DOCKS,’ ‘BANAL’ AND ‘HAY-ON-WYE BOOK FESTIVAL.’ THAT’S WHAT I TOLD MY BOSS, ANYWAY, WHEN HE THREATENED TO FIRE ME UNLESS I STOPPED LOOKING AT PORN AT WORK. 
Insipid eight-year-olds who are interested in harbours and literary gatherings are just as likely to make those same typos. That said, appealing to safeguarding children against ethically problematic material has a rather sordid history, from temperance to anti-gay campaigns all the way to modern Chinese effort to censor the internet.
NO ONE SHOULD MAKE ME THINK OF THE CHILDREN. ESPECIALLY IN THE CONTEXT OF PORN.
While it is indeed a concern that porn is so pervasive in society, it will take some very persuasive arguments to convince a majority of Icelanders that some kind of state-run content filter for internet pornography is the most effective way to change that. Until that happens it is very unlikely that a nationwide internet porn ban is enacted.
 IT’S A SLIPPERY SLOPE, Y’KNOW. FIRST THEY COME FOR THE PORN, AND I SAY HEY, I WAS USING THAT. THEN THEY COME FOR… UH… JUST PLEASE DON’T TAKE MY PORN, IT’S THE ONLY THING THAT GETS ME THROUGH ANOTHER DREARY WORK WEEK.
While the world would be little worse off if the porn industry vanished from the face of the planet, history suggests that it is incredibly tricky to write legislation that only targets one certain type of pornography, while keeping safe the very important rights of consenting adults to do whatever the fuck they like.



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