In an attempt to protect their youth, Iceland is considering a ban on all Internet pornography. This is a drastic move, but unsurprising, considering that Iceland has already banned printing and distributing printed porn, as well as banning strip clubs. The Daily Mail reports:
Iceland could become the first Western democracy to block all internet porn under radical new proposals.
Fears about the damaging effects on children have led the government to work on legal measures to try and stop the flood of graphic sexual material reaching the island’s shores.
Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson has set up working parties to find the best ways to stem the tide of online images and videos being accessed by young people through computers, games consoles and smartphones.
Methods under consideration include blocking porn IP addresses and making it illegal to use Icelandic credit cards to access x-rated sites.
A law forbidding the printing and distribution of porn has long been in place in the Nordic nation – but it has yet to be updated to cover the internet.
Two years ago, the Icelandic Parliament – led by female prime minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir - successfully banned all strip clubs on the grounds that they violated the civil rights of the women who worked there and were harmful to society.
This argument – that porn violates the rights of both women who appear in it and children who are exposed to it – is the cornerstone of the new proposals under discussion.
Iceland’s leaders argue that the risks of pornography are simply too great to allow it into their society. They did a study into sex crimes attacks and concluded:
That the extremely violent nature of the material now freely available on the web was increasing the intensity of sex attacks.
It also found that children exposed to violent pornography at an early age were showing the similar signs of trauma as youngsters who had been actually abused.
If those results are true, it would directly contradict a study performed by the Czech Republic that found:
Results from the Czech Republic showed, as seen everywhere else studied (Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sweden, USA), that rape and other sex crimes have not increased following the legalization and wide availability of pornography. In addition, the study found that the incidence of child sex abuse has fallen since 1989, when child pornography became readily accessible — a phenomenon also seen in Denmark and Japan.
Nobody is suggesting child pornography be legalized– it’s impossible to make such porn without directly harming children– but can Iceland reconcile its claims that available porn equals sexual violence when so many other studies find otherwise?
It’s tempting to dismiss the views of the Icelandic Parliament as those of hysterical moral puritans, however there is mounting evidence that early exposure to pornography, and pornography addiction in young adults, is having a disturbing effect on young people.
There seems to be some debate about the average age most children first see online porn. Most studies seem to agree the average age most young boys begin searching out porn is around fourteen or so, an age when they’re going to be sexually curious. The issue that many people have is the content they’re likely to come across on the internet, which ranges from the mundane to the highly illegal.
It’s not just kids that could suffer negatively from pornography. Recent studies have noted a rise in sexual dysfunction in twenty something males, including difficulties getting and maintaining erections, as well as difficulties with orgasm that appear to be linked with habitual porn use. It seems to make sense: how can an ordinary sexual encounter compare to the exotic and explicit images available for free, on demand from the Internet? However, do these apparent risks justify banning all forms of pornography, and can we trust our governments to manage the flow of information for us?
As you may recall, Australia toyed briefly with the idea of implementing a great firewall, similar to the one used in China to keep its citizens accessing politically sensitive content. Australia’s aim was to censor child porn, however when wikileaks obtained a list of the banned sites it included a good deal of material that was not child pornography, or even pornography. Included in the banned sites were sections of wikipedia, shock humour site Encylopedia Dramatica, online poker sites, fringe religions and the website of a Queensland dentist.
Even with such a narrow definition of material to police (child pornography), the Australian government managed to fill half the list with things that weren’t child pornography, and many that weren’t even banned by law.
Iceland’s government has a much larger task ahead of them: they need to ban everything pornographic. There doesn’t appear to clear, legally enforceable consensus on what constitutes “porn,” Iceland are welcome to use my definition which is “anything you lose interest in after you’ve orgasmed.” Even still, they have a huge task ahead of them. Is this wikipedia picture of a breast pornography? What about these instructional guides on having sex? Someone in Iceland’s government is going to have to make these decisions on behalf of the people of Iceland, and they better get it right. If they wind up erring on the side of excessive censorship, many people could simply circumvent Iceland’s censorship technology entirely.
- Iceland considers pornography ban (secretsofthefed.com)
- Iceland Wants to Ban Internet Porn (reason.com)
- Iceland’s internet ‘porn shield’ is misguided and unworkable | Birgitta Jónsdóttir (guardian.co.uk)
- Study: Porn Addiction Increasing as Technology Proliferates Access (prweb.com)
- Don’t Like Porn? Move to Iceland (everything-pr.com)