In an effort to protect children from being exposed to inappropriate images, the government of Iceland is preparing to pass a law banning some forms of pornography in the nation.
Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson, who introduced the bill, says that the legislation is necessary in order to shield children from violent sexual images.
“When 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,” explained a spokeswoman on behalf of Jonasson. “There are laws in our society. Why should they not apply to the internet?”
Many worldwide are applauding his efforts.
“This is a country with courage,” Gail Dines, author of the book Pornland, told reporters. “Iceland is going to be the first country with the guts to stand up to these predatory bullies. … It is going to take one country to show that this is possible.”
However, opponents of the bill state that the legislation will only lead to internet censorship, that it will harm the country’s reputation for protecting free speech, and will encourage the government to be authoritarian in nature.
“[I]t is a very slippery slope to start going down the path of any sort of censorship for whatever reason,” former MI5 agent Annie Machon told the publication RT. “Because, of course, once you’re in a position where authorities can look into what is being passed down the wires, [they can] choose to block whatever they want — be it violent porn to begin with.”
Smari McCarthy with the International Modern Media Institute agreed.
“This kind of thing does not work. It is technically impossible to do in a way that has the intended effect,” she said. “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.”
But Jonassen’s spokeswoman notes that there are certain types of unlawful behavior that cannot be regarded as “freedom of expression.”
“I think we should be able to discuss the internet with more depth, without just shouting ‘censorship’ on the one hand and ‘laissez-faire’ on the other hand,” she said. “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?”
Pornography is already illegal in Iceland, but because the law does not provide a clear outline as to what constitutes porn, the government has not been enforcing the statute. Therefore, Jonasson is seeking to clarify the types of photographs and material that should be banned in the nation. He is also discussing how to effectively monitor pornographic images, such as implementing an internet filter.
The law, if passed, would not bar general photographs depicting nudity or content of a sexual nature.