And they say feminists are hysterical...

(174 Posts)
FloraFox Thu 28-Feb-13 19:38:27

www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/28/iceland-porn-ban-free-society

So a group of activists from different countries (including Laurie Penny) have penned this gem of a letter to the Icelandic minister in charge of the pornography ban proposal. It includes such gems as:

"The current discussion of blocking pornographic content has offered no definition, no evidence and suggested no technology. This is an affront to the basic principles of the society..."

Eh? What basic principle of society would that be?

"Rather than silencing a voice, the result is depriving the population of material they can see and read. This is censorship, as it skews the way people see the world."

What? Through the filter of a woman's vagina?

"The right to see the world as it is, is critical to the very tenets and functions of a democracy and must be protected at all costs."

Just, fucking, wow.

"The prohibition of pornographic content may create demand for an underground porn industry, unregulated and most certainly affiliated with other illegal activities..."

So we must not regulate pornography on the internet because if we do, an unregulated porn industry might arise. OK, got it.

curryeater Fri 01-Mar-13 13:59:39

Eldritch, I believe that people who make that argument about drug laws also (often) believe that some recreational drug use is ok.

I don't think anyone has argued that we should legalise burglary, yet every time you report one, the police just nod and give you a crime number.

I notice that sausage has not answered my question about whether she thinks that we don't need laws against child pornography, and this is very telling. I think she does think we need these laws, no matter how hard they are to enforce, because we care about the welfare of our children and we should do everything in our power to protect them. Even if, unfortunately, that is sometimes not enough.
I think society as a whole does not care about women and doesn't see the value in protecting them, and only in the context of this (unspoken) attitude does it have any relevance that a potential law protecting women is hard to enforce. If it mattered, you would start with the law, or at least the will for the law, and work out the logistics of enforcing it within that framework.

I do agree that the "freedom of speech" thing is an imported and misleading figure of speech.

Sausageeggbacon Fri 01-Mar-13 14:28:36

Curry there already laws against child porn, what I was saying is that the police themselves admit how difficult it is to control. Any mother would want that porn stopped. The difficulty comes in the users of that type of porn screen themselves with software so the ISP cannot detect what is being passed. So constantly changing details with software to protect the end users the police have been trying for years to catch these people and yet they don't.

As to "normal" porn the UK is not going to ban it. The discussion is should people be free to choose as the default or should they have to opt in to access it. This will have nothing to do with child porn which is illegal and as far as I am concerned anyone accessing it should be castrated.

curryeater Fri 01-Mar-13 14:46:01

Sausage, what this is actually about is the letter opposing Iceland banning pornography, and their ban itself. It is, if at all, only tangentially about the practical business of what is available on the internet, especially in this country.
I argue that it is NOT about that AT ALL, because practical difficulties are being used as a rhetorical distraction by people who support the status quo, and we shouldn't be falling for it. If you support pornography, at least come out and support it (general "you").
And yes thank goodness we do already have a law against child pornography; and you seem to agree with me that the difficulties with enforcing it have nothing to do with whether we have it. I am just extending that argument to something else similar - highlighting that practical difficulties are neither here nor there when it suits you (again general you)

EldritchCleavage Fri 01-Mar-13 15:21:56

There is no impediment to enforcing a law against certain types of content (e.g. child pornography) on the internet except the degree of political and social will to do it.

So certain kinds of porn involving adults is also illegal. That could be extended, if we as a society wished it, and the providers of that content tracked down and prosecuted.

Writehand Fri 01-Mar-13 15:33:34

I think pornography is a free speech issue. I'm with the Icelandic campaigners. I have never understood why being a feminist should motivate me towards censorship. Porn is loaded word anyway. One person's porn is another person's art.

Sure, there's nasty porn out there, but the mechanisms and rulings that might allow banning it in terms of internet technology are far too complex and implementing such mechanisms would inevitably lead to far worse results in terms of civil liberties.

Incidentally, I was very disturbed to hear on the radio recently that it may be or become illegal to possess or create written fiction about sex with children. We're getting into the realms of thought crime. Possessing photos taken of a real abused child is undoubtedly a crime, and a grave one, but a story someone's written? The next thing would be that the authors of those super violent thrillers are guilty of crime too.

EldritchCleavage Fri 01-Mar-13 16:56:53

That's not new, Writehand: it's always been possible to prosecute even for fictional material under the Obscene Publications Act. The question is what, if anything, society deems has a tendency to corrupt and deprave (the legal test under the Act. Rightly or wrongly, probably the majority of British people would say even fictional accounts of sex with children would qualify.

Writehand Fri 01-Mar-13 16:59:15

It seems very dubious to me. Thought crime is a worrying idea.

slhilly Fri 01-Mar-13 17:06:32

Thoughts:
- the letter is poorly worded. I wonder if it's actually a translation from Icelandic?
- we live in an imperfect world. The pertinent question, to my mind, is whether the likely benefits and costs of trying to block outweight the benefits and harms of not blocking. Absolutist arguments don't cut any ice with me. Clearly, widespread porn is harmful. Clearly, too, the inevitable Type 1 and 2 errors in porn blocking software would also be harmful (false positives especially). And the risk of mission creep is significant and should not be sniffed at. We've seen mission creep the other direction after all.

I've not done the calculus of what I personally think is best.

Sausageeggbacon Fri 01-Mar-13 17:27:25

Curry the law would be one that can't be enforced and can't be policed. Assuming we are only talking 100,000 computers (Iceland being such a small Country) porn will only be found when computers are brought in for maintenance or if people inform. There is enough information splashed across the web to bypass any protocols put in by ISPs. Or do you suggest random spot checks? Where is the money coming from to fund the number of computer experts to be able to examine the computers.

Of course they can bring in the law but in practical terms it is as about as useful as the law that forbids MPs to wear armour in parliament (this may have retracted since 1999).

FloraFox Fri 01-Mar-13 17:30:11

"Sure, there's nasty porn out there, but the mechanisms and rulings that might allow banning it in terms of internet technology are far too complex and implementing such mechanisms would inevitably lead to far worse results in terms of civil liberties."

In what way would it be far worse in terms of civil liberties and how is this inevitable?

slhilly Fri 01-Mar-13 17:55:15

The harms and potential harms are clear. A non-definitive list would certainly include:
- people will be denied access to non-porn sites that are wrongly banned (obvious examples are sex education sites for teens). Any list of banned sites will always carry errors, and the risks increase if many sites are being banned
- governments may expand banning beyond porn sites over time, for authoritarian reasons
- legitimate sites will be nobbled by people accusing them of containing banned material. We know this is very likely to happen in the UK, given how individuals and organisations have used libel laws
- legitimate sites may be nobbled by hackers uploading banned material
- people may be wrongly accused of accessing banned sites and end up with criminal records and personal disgrace

You'll have to judge whether the benefits outweigh these harms. But pretending they don't exist or they can all be mitigated is just refusing to engage with the facts. The same is true of people who pretend there are no harms with the status quo.

FloraFox Fri 01-Mar-13 18:15:29

Not sure why you think anyone is pretending the "harms" don't exist. I'm interested in why writehand (or anyone else) thinks those are more important than the benefit. I think that was pretty clear.

slhilly Fri 01-Mar-13 23:17:15

I think it because I don't see many posts talking in relative vs absolute terms

Trekkie Fri 01-Mar-13 23:39:46

Hello smile

I'm cutting in late at night, sorry, and not sober!

Interested to hear, off the back of my post yesterday:

"You see, if they said they thought it was unworkable, then I could understand that.
But if they thought it was unworkable, why bother writing letters about it

Does this freedom of speech in porniness extend to their wanting all porn of whatever nature to be freely available? Judging from their arguments I would say yes, but I imagine if you asked them how keen they would be on genuine total freedom of people to watch whatever they like, their answer would be somewhat different"

So. Please define what porn is AOK, important and necessary and what is illegal / abusive / wrong. TIA. And WHY the difference.

Trekkers smile

AuntieStella Sat 02-Mar-13 09:42:11

The laws against child pornography predated the Internet, and has some clear definitions, importantly a defined actual/apparent age. Also, there is greater international consensus and therefore co-operation in doing so. As noted by a poster above, even that narrowly defined subset of porn is nigh on impossible to police but there are efforts put in to doing so. A millions-of-agile-pages increase in what needs to be policed would be utterly unworkable.

And if you look at the Icelandic PM's statements on this, it is couched in terms of "We can put a man on the moon so we must be able to do this", which really does strike me as wishful thinking. They have commissioned a group to look at technical options, but short of a parallel net (like in North Korea or Iran) they'll find there aren't any. And that is why the initiative in the terms the PM is putting it to the public looks silly.

If however there is parallel work in defining unacceptable porn (required before any form of implementation can begin), this would be interesting. I would be particularly keen to see how created/manipulated images would be handled (there has been one UK prosecution against possessing such images, even though no actual child was involved, but IIRC the perpetrator also had actual images). And if Icelandic enforcement began with hard copy material (airport and home searches required?) then it would show the start of how a regime might work.

curryeater Sat 02-Mar-13 10:55:37

I don't know if there is any point asking this as there are so many people completely missing the point, but I would really like honest answers from you all to this question, which I will put as clearly as I can:

Do you think that the primary way to decide what activities are illegal or legal, unacceptable or acceptable, is to start from a position of deciding what would be easy or difficult to stop people doing?

Leithlurker Sat 02-Mar-13 13:46:01

It may not be people missing the point, it might be that in order to answer your question people are starting from a diffrent place curry eater. As Aunttie Stella said above we have a definition of child pornography and what is meant by sharing it.

We do not have a definition of what is pornography, would for example many of the sex education tools that show two consenting adults having sex be called porn, if not then a clear line between educational and recreational media needs defined. This in it's self would lead to further battles when it comes to LGBT educational tools. No one is saying it is impossible, but it is no where as simple as saying we do not like something so lets blanket ban it.

Leithlurker Sat 02-Mar-13 13:57:31

Just to add another thought, when the only medium for pornography was illuminated books hand drawn mostly by monks, these were not banned, they were subject to sever restriction mainly they were held in locked vaults owned by the church only available to "scholars". These books were known about by many people who were not given access, they were also used as ways to withhold knowledge and power from those that were not able to see them. In other words they became part of an establishment that saw knowledge and in particular the knowledge of sex and reproduction as only fit for a small number of people.

Before banning, even if it was possible, after all in this technology age its far harder to restrict access than when their was only a small number of books. It is necessarie to think through what actions will follow. For example by restricting access will the rights of women to demand their own choice of birth control be affected, not saying it will just an example based on the need for knowledge in order to make a choice.

StewieGriffinsMom Sat 02-Mar-13 20:33:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Leithlurker Sat 02-Mar-13 20:43:38

And as others have pointed out you then need to find a way of telling the search engines what is educational, "dumb" computers just see words like sex, vagina, foreplay, as well as the the more pornified language and block access. The one solution might be, if it exists not sure it does, is to include a special code in the http that allows search engines to pick up on the educational nature. That solves one part of the puzzle maybe. But in terms of those resources being used as wank material which brings us back to objectionable views of women, then internet blocking is useless again. Plus unlike keeping books locked up under guard, it seems the one thing the digital age cannot give us is fool proof security.

curryeater Sat 02-Mar-13 21:37:31

no one has answered my question

WhentheRed Sat 02-Mar-13 22:52:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Sausageeggbacon Sun 03-Mar-13 09:30:30

Curry the issue of policing the Internet is totally different to crimes as we normally understand them. So the issue is do you make laws because you want to? Fraud, theft, scamming are all illegal in the UK and cyber theft is a massive business. Considering how well it is policed don't you think it strange how rare it is you hear about arrests?

So we come to Iceland with the law they want to introduce, which is not going to be applied in any other Western Country at present. We have a technology that is relatively new and therefore does not have as many laws governing it. The aspect that Iceland want to affect is a contentious one simply because not everyone agrees with the stance and as the "first" Country to want to make this a crime you would think they would at least suggest how they are going to police it.

So should a law be passed without the ability to police it? I would take that on a case by case basis and not apply the same standards to every law. But it has given the Geek circles a good laugh as people are publishing so many ways to circumvent a law before it has even been passed.

Trekkie Sun 03-Mar-13 09:49:57

These arguments seems strange to me.

Certain types of porn are already illegal in many countries around the world.
The fact that it is impossible to stop people viewing them does not mean that these laws should be repealed.
In practice people are prosecuted after the event, when it is found that they have viewed certain images.
It would be the same, I imagine, in Iceland if this law were to pass.

Just because it is hard / impossible to stop supply, does not mean something should be legal. It is hard / impossible to stop supply of images of child rape, adult rape, sexual torture and so on. Do people want these things legalised?

Leithlurker Sun 03-Mar-13 11:26:04

Trekkie can you show where people have said they want to legalise already illegal things? You say that the onus would be on detecting that people have viewed porn in a country like Iceland if they were to pass those laws. Can you explain how you would detect that and so bring about prosecutions?

What would happen if the use of internet based porn by icelandic people was replaced by a huge upsurge of dvd, magazine, book, based media. Would owning porn be banned do you think?

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