Assault on free speech: Iceland mulling ban on internet pornography

Iceland may become the first Western democracy to ban internet pornography. CNN.com reports a “strong consensus” building in the Scandinavian island nation noting mounting convincing arguments from many experts on the matter.

“At the moment, we are looking at the best technical ways to achieve this. But surely if we can send a man to the moon, we must be able to tackle porn on the Internet.”

Such a step is somewhat surprising among Western nations that, for the most part, champion free-speech rights. But the move wouldn’t be unprecedented in the island nation.

Iceland has had laws banning the printing and distribution of pornography for years, but those laws haven’t been updated to include the Web. And two years ago, the nation’s parliament banned strip clubs, saying they violate the rights of the women who work in them.

Iceland would become the first Western democracy to try and block pornography online.

Online pornography is a billion-dollar industry and accounts for a big chunk of Internet traffic. In the not-too-distant past “men’s magazines” like Playboy and Penthouse were available only in PX Goods stores and taken home in unlabelled brown bags. Videos were rented from neighbourhood shops. Both access methods forces one to interact with real people making the actual experience of getting one’s hands on pornpgraphic content a bit cringy.

But in the Internet age, access to pornography is pretty much a self-serve undertaking (in more ways than one) and the middlemen in its trade have since been largely cut out of the supply chain. Porn has taken its place among the other stuff that makes up the “wealth” of information made accessible to billions at the click of a mouse. Supposedly this freedom to access porn will be tempered by humanity’s capacity for rational choice. Instead it has since turned into the dark underbelly of that “free access to information” regime much-touted by social media cheerleaders as the cure-all solution that will rescue us from our own human condition.

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Indeed, in reality human beings have always had a bad track record of applying a rational mind when making critical choices. The notion of the “free market” and its singular underpinning assumption — that rational buying and selling choices are naturally arrived at given equal access to information about supply and prices will lead to market stability — has failed a long time ago. Same will be true with “free access to information”. The folly and hubris of thinking in the field of “economics” has come to infest Technology as well. Porn has become free to access under that same exact sort of thinking.

As modern-day philosopher Nassim Taleb quipped:

Information in large amounts is toxic.

Humans are, by nature, naturally ill-equipped to process large quantities of complex information at an intellectual level. This is the reason why we need at least 12 years of formal education to enable us to do just that at a passable level. And even then, it is usually the most educated amongst us that are the most prone to lose the plot and remain immersed in this “wealth” of data that “freedom of information” activists claim is necessarily a good thing.

If you stop to think about it, any kind of idiocy (at best) and atrocity (at worst) can be justified and rationalised given enough weight by the “educated” and be-credentialed amonst us. Indeed, we have already seen how popularity and celebrity are often enough to make even the rudest and most disrespectful gestures seem “heroic” and “noble”. Today, Internet porn continues to flourish on the back of the “noble” idea of “freedom of expression”. We have the nobility of the causes of our “activists” to thank for that.

15 Replies to “Assault on free speech: Iceland mulling ban on internet pornography”

  1. I wonder — if porn weren’t so readily available online, would we have high-speed Internet? Go back two or three decades. If porn weren’t distributed on VHS, would we have had the same revolutionary leaps in audiovisual technology? What about Laser Discs? CDs? DVDs? What about cable television? Or cartoons? Would animated features have evolved the same way if no one outside of Japan ever heard of Hentai?

  2. From an objective standpoint, PORN HAS SHAPED MODERN CIVILIZATION. Like it or not, we would not even be having an online discussion — the Internet would probably not have grown as fast, or as wide — if porn were more restricted some twenty or thirty years ago.

    1. True. I read that the porn industry is at the forefront of innovation when it comes to e-commerce and digital marketing as well as all sorts of business models around making lots of money online. And because they are shunned by mainstream technology platforms, they are forced to develop their own industry technologies, platforms and standards for delivering and distributing their content..

  3. Indeed I say, the porn industry does have its place in innovating our technology in cases presented by some of the commentators. But that does not necessarily excuse the social effects and moral/ethical effects that the industry has done which have a more detrimental effect in the overall sense. Especially on kids.

    http://www.protectkids.com/effects/harms.htm
    http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2010/March/Sexual-Junk-Food-Porns-Degrading-Effects/

    Plus the technological innovations IS NOT monopolized by the porn industry. In the past, it was the manufacturing industry and the military(until today) that push most of the innovations to technology. Concerning with business models and what not, it is somehow irrelevant considering that the rise of TQM(Total Quality Management) since the 1980’s in the US.(first implemented by the Japanese in the 60’s with the philosophy of Kaizen)
    Essentially innovations in business models can be done by any industry if it desires so.

    So I see that Iceland has made the right choice (I admit, a supposed freedom is being “assaulted”) and I see that it is a better course of action and other countries should follow it too. For the sake of our children IMHO.

    1. I think we’re all in agreement here that the last thing we want is for any harm to come to a child. Especially the most vulnerable ones. Your link sums it up quite nicely. It is first and foremost the responsibility of THE PARENTS and NOT THE STATE to sducate and ensure the safety of their children. I don’t believe we should be giving people any more opportunity to abdicate that responsibility on the grounds that a government agency will be around to do the job for them. Nor should we be encouraging any government to expand their intrusion in the personal lives of the citizenry.

      A bit of a correction. The porn industry isn’t exactly a technology “innovator.” But it has shown to be an early adopter and propagator of technology. Porn fueled the widespread use of the VHS standard in the 1980s popularized home video and the boom in personal audiovisual technology. The consistent ranking of porn in the top one hundred most visited sites on the Internet has spurred development in everything from Flash to video streaming to the new HTML 5 standards. All because some wanker needs to get his x-rated fix in high definition. And these are what you need for any innovation to become widespread.

      1. You shut one door another will open. If you think banning porn will solve all the social problems and rapes, you’re wrong. Countries which already ban porn has higher rape and child molesting cases. Its better for somebody to wank rather than raping someone else…..

        1. WAR ON TERROR…WAR ON PORNOGRAPHY….WAR ON DRUGS…PROHIBITION… have all failed. Why?

          These so-called corrective, Orwellian, police state solutions to social problems are actually smoke screens to cover the transfer of vast sums from social programs to law enforcement and military communities.

        2. All this rhetoric from the govt. about “moral depravity” and “protecting women and children” is disingenuous to say the least. What is really obscene are the one million children who do not go to school, dressed in rags, who spend their days trash picking.

        3. Lawmakers seem unable to distinguish between the causes of problems and their symptoms. Drugs, crime, cyber dens, pornography are not causes; but symptoms of inequality and the deepening divide between rich and poor. Stamping them out will solve nothing in a long term sense. They will simply re-manifest themselves in another guise. Stop using the stick and start using the carrot.

      1. AND EMPLOYMENT – in the porn industry! – through 3rd world cybersex dens, and dating scams.

        “The Philippines must be half empty – you’re all here running the Hospitals,” Prince Philip told a filipina nurse this week. – yes, and the rest are on sex webcams at 1,000 pesos a day – more than the average wage, and better than a poke up the bum (that is extra!)

        In fact filipinas are taking over the BPO/KPO Industry – Buy Philipina Online/Kinky Philipina Online.

        A blonde is becoming an endangered species as high quality long legged european blondes lose out to low cost flat chested asian brown bunnies.

        At least my time at microsoft was not wasted! Technology offers so much for so many in so many ways – some too graphic to contemplate, and no sector is more innovative in the application of technology than the porn industry, or more profitable.

        With such a financial contribution to the GDP/black economy, p-noy and his cabinet members should use their undoubted expertise in this area to appoint a porn czar – ochoa comes to mind, if he ever sobers up. Llamas and his love of ‘imported dvd’s!!’ would also be a natural, and risa hontiveros could be his research assistant.

  4. Even the pope is not immune.
    Vatileaks infers pope’s resignation linked to gay sex ring expose.

    I’m the pope, don’t ya know it,
    Hot and hard, let me show it,
    Kneel down and you just blow it,
    Now get low in the orchestra pit,
    Two cymbals and a trumpet,
    Blow and blow, just dont quit,
    Swallow hard, and never spit,
    Hail mary! – now cover your tit.
    All is over in a lickety split.
    Must go. Need ecclesiastical shit.

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