Monday, February 18, 2013

Iceland’s Minister Jonassen Acts to Stop Internet Porn

It’s a world where everybody is constantly clamoring for freedom to act out your own destiny without anybody placing unnatural limits on your right to speak and work and live, where the words regulation and censorship are like red rags to everybody’s bull. But now Iceland’s Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson has spoken out against internet porn and introduced the idea that it should be banned because of the effect it has on children, who can access it too easily.

He has appointed committees to study ways to prevent children from seeing these images on games consoles, smartphones and computers. One of the options would be to block the IP addresses of known porn sites and make it illegal to pay for online porn with an Iceland-based credit card. 

If Iceland goes through with this it will be the first Western democracy to block online pornography. Right now it is already illegal to print and distribute porn, and strip clubs were banned two years ago because of how they violate the rights of women who work in them.

Of course, Jonasson has drawn fire, from advocates of freedom of the Web, in particular, a member of Iceland’s parliament Birgitta Jonsdottir. In an editorial in The Guardian (UK) she called the proposed bill “bizarre”, saying it is impossible to erect walls around the internet unless you create an entirely independent internet as Iran is attempting to do. The Iran-fear factor; there’s nothing like it for striking terror into the hearts of people.

Jonsdottir also wrote about the danger of companies not wanting to host their businesses in Iceland as they fear this bill will presage the kind of blanket censorship that China and Saudi Arabia practice. Ah, the China-fear factor. Jonsdottir didn’t address how such a simple, well-defined and isolated instance of censorship could ever snowball into the kind of manic destruction of rights that she suggests we will all have to guard against.

Personally, I think the loss of some paranoid businesses – if they even exist, Jonsdottir didn’t elaborate; fear mongers never do – is a small price to pay for a move that the world should have taken a long time ago, and that would place Iceland amongst the heroes. The internet’s porn trade is the Wild West; unfettered freedom, a breeding ground for criminals and rank exploiters. And children use this medium the most. I think every single thing that can be done should be done.

Jonsdottir has suggested the development of free anti-porn software and educating parents. There’s nothing wrong with her ideas, and she should move on them. The more solutions in the pot the better. But ‘education’ is always the panacea that’s offered when people want to avoid the hard solution because money is involved. The NRA and Republicans in the US tout education instead of gun control. 

On its own, education won’t fix a problem, because you can’t force parents who don’t really give a damn to participate. You can’t force people to read pamphlets or attend lectures either – it’s their basic human right to choose. And in any case one lecture or a series doesn’t always inspire people to act in a sustainable way. This isn't just about people not understanding the dangers, it's about a culture of adult apathy.

It’s kind of like having advanced cancer; you can decide to learn about what has caused it and how you need to change your life, but you’d better also do something about those rampant cancer cells right now. Internet porn is a cancer and it’s rampant, and the way it affects children is as serious a problem in the world as global warming. Lawmakers need to take it seriously. I think Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson is heading for a Nobel Prize.