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No More Porn In Iceland?

Officials in Iceland are now considering a ban on all pornography in the small North Atlantic country. The moratorium will include finding ways to block or censor porn on the Internet.

Whereas proponents of the plan feel the ban could help keep inappropriate content away from the eyes of children, critics feel the proposal sets in motion a slippery slope that could lead to dangerous consequences for freedom of expression throughout Iceland.

Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson, who drafted the porn-ban proposal, has already been the brunt of a fair share of outrage about the issue, with some referring to the move as a step toward totalitarianism.

"Opponents say the move will censor the Web, encourage authoritarian regimes and undermine Iceland's reputation as a Scandinavian bastion of free speech," reports Fox News.

Halla Gunnarsdottir, a political adviser to the interior minister, feels that because there are laws about what can and cannot be done in the way of prurient material in "real life," why should these laws not apply to the Internet as well?

Gunnarsdottir went as far as to note that "[w]hen 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."

Toward the aim of assuaging fears of that the porn ban would lead the way to a dictatorship in Iceland, Gunnarsdottir continues that Jonasson's proposal does not introduce new regulations, but rather clarifies those that already exist in a "vague" form.

Pornography is already banned in Iceland and has been for some time. But because the term "pornography" has yet to be legally defined in the country, the law hasn't been and cannot be enforced.

Both Playboy and Penthouse are on sale in Icelandic bookstores, there are "adult" channels available on Icelandic TV and there are sex shops in which pornography can be purchased as well.

According to Fox News, the ban would not do away with pornography altogether, but only that which would be defined as having "violent or degrading content."

Ideas for how to eradicate this kind of pornography include:

  • Making it illegal to purchase with an Icelandic credit card
  • National Internet filter
  • A list of Web addresses will be blocked

"This kind of thing does not work," says Smari McCarthy of the free-speech group the International Modern Media Institute: "It is technically impossible to do in a way that has the intended effect. 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."

"Is it freedom of speech to be able to reach children with very hardcore, brutal material? Is that the freedom of speech we want to protect?" asks Gunnarsdottir.

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