EU set to vote on blanket porn ban; internet freedoms at risk

EU set to vote on blanket porn ban; internet freedoms at risk

Summary: In a severe threat to online freedoms in the region, the European Parliament is set to vote in the next week on 'a ban on all forms of pornography in the media'.

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TOPICS: Privacy, EU
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The European Parliament will vote next Tuesday on a report that could lead to a blanket ban on pornography in any form of media, not limited to advertising, television, and radio, but also on the web.

In the process, it could have wide-ranging implications for freedom of expression in the 27 member state bloc.

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Titled "Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU", the report, on the face of it, would allow the EU to help secure the rights for those across the gender spectrum, particularly women, who are objectified, and those in regions where gender roles are "shaped and imposed" by social influences, such as in the media and education.

While the report states that there is an "increasingly noticeable tendency ... to show provocatively dressed women in sexual poses", it also notes that pornography is becoming mainstream and is "slipping into our everyday lives as an ever more universally accepted, often idealised, cultural element".

But if adopted, the opinion formed by the lawmakers would seemingly go against the grain of Europe's fundamental human rights, and could lead to the infringement of certain civil liberties in the 500 million-strong population.

Christian Engström, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Pirate Party, said on his blog that the "devil is in the detail". He warned that the wording in an older resolution from 1997 could lead to "statutory measures to prevent any form of pornography in the media".

Dutch MEP for the Socialist Party Kartika Tamara Liotard tabled the report in the European Parliament's Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) late last year.

In one section of the new report, Liotard calls on the European Union to enforce a blanket ban on pornography in the media of the 27 member states, which could also include online pornography.

The report says (emphasis added):

17. Calls on the EU and its member states to take concrete action on its resolution of 16 September 1997 on discrimination against women in advertising, which called for a ban on all forms of pornography in the media and on the advertising of sex tourism.

The scope of "the media" has for years been ill defined and vague at best, but the report specifically includes internet-related activities. And because the Bill encompasses "any media", the belief by Engström is that this will also include the web, social networks, emails, and even the photos that European citizens upload.

As Engström noted, "To a certain extent, the exact meaning on this proposed ban on pornography is unclear, since neither the 1997 resolution nor the text we will be voting on next week contains any definition of what is meant by 'in the media'."

The report goes on:

14. Points out that a policy to eliminate stereotypes in the media will of necessity involve action in the digital field; considers that this requires the launching of initiatives coordinated at EU level with a view to developing a genuine culture of equality on the internet; calls on the Commission to draw up in partnership with the parties concerned a charter to which all internet operators will be invited to adhere

The wording suggests that while internet service providers (ISPs) may not be forced to comply with the principles of the report, it could give these companies "policing rights" over their customers, similar to the "six-strike" rule in the US relating to online piracy.

Point 14 also suggests that any kind of sexual content on the web, such as on open platforms like Twitter, could eventually be ruled out. Legislation at best can be vague, and does not always specify exactly what the Bill intends to do.

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in the US, for instance, are two fine examples of how specific and yet so vague some laws can be. In the case of FISA, US authorities have a secret interpretation of the data snooping and wiretapping law, which has yet to be released to the public in an unredacted form.

Worryingly for principles governing the freedom of the press in the region, the report calls on all 27 countries in the EU to create regulatory bodies that could ultimately control and punish the media and companies that use discriminatory advertising, for instance.

19. Calls on the member states to establish independent regulation bodies with the aim of controlling the media and advertising industry and a mandate to impose effective sanctions on companies and individuals promoting the sexualisation of girls

This initiative report, which will be voted on, is not a draft legislative measure, though it is a report to suggest that legislation should in the future be drafted and voted on.

While at this stage it is merely an opinion formed by a vote in the parliament, this is one of the first ways in which a new draft law could serve as a basis for the European Commission to propose such laws. The European Parliament would then bring it to a vote that could then see the draft ratified into law.

This article was first published on CNET.

Topics: Privacy, EU

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8 comments
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  • This has ZERO chance of becoming law!

    Any sort of law-making like this would make the EU membership decline to the point of rendering it meaningless as a political body. Wait, it actually is already! And apparently they never heard of the law of unintended consequences. What a bunch of sissified weenies! To say nothing of a hag haven! Whenever you think that a particular law is the stupidest thing you ever heard of, the EU comes along and doubles down on stupidity. Irrelevant idiots trying to make a name for themselves. Congratulations! You already did! And the name is Buffoons!
    thetwonkey
    • EU law-making

      Please be more serious with you comments. There is a proverb saying that the way to hell is plastered with good intentions and that is the issue here as well as in many other instances involving EU legislative activities.

      Gender eqality activists are behind many of these proposals misusing the idea of respecting privacy, non-discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation etc. They have proven to be in no way better in the pursuit of their interests than their enemies accused of wrong-doings, which in very many cases are not very substantial or the consequence of misinterpretation of intentions.

      The own-initiative report by Ms Liotard suffers from the shortfalls of many of these initiatives. The main promoters are heraldines of the women liberation movement vociferously defending their case by blaming male discrimination exploiting sexual phantasies as the driving force behind what they do not like.

      The problem is that such reports once adopted serve as a base of reference for interests and policies using the good will having supported adoption for totally differents, sometimes unacceptable other intentions. Mr Whittaker is quite right to raise the issue and to keep an eye on it in the future.
      info@...
  • Forbidding pornography hosted in EU?

    Why not starting with prostitution first?

    The Porn industry is far less damaging for women than prostitution. A movie can be watched thousands of time with no risk for the actors. The companies and bank accounts of porn companies are greatly traceable. Porn doesn't finance women slavery, drugs, weapons, and gangsters as much as prostitution does.

    It would also help local police overload and the local political dilemma associated with prostitution regulation.

    Banning porn websites from EU hosting companies will not reduce watching, simply displace the revenue out of the EU.

    Porn isn't a virtuous industry yet the priorities of the EU are really surprising here.
    Agnès Meyer
  • EU Porn Ban

    My view of what is pornographic may not match yours, and that is precisely why this talk is so dangerous. Slippery slope folks......
    midlantic
  • This is akin to the United Nations

    ITU World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) trying to takeover / legalize control of the Internet.

    The EU should start somewhere where some good will be done. Child exploitation on the web. The rest is done by consenting adults.
    dave01234
  • Who's backing it?

    And what is the proposed definition of pornography?

    As usual, the devil's in the details.
    John L. Ries
  • When they can't fix real problems (diseases, war) then they talk about sex

    In fact, the lawmakers seem to think about sex more than normal people do! lol
    Bj Reynolds
  • Do It!

    It would be awesome to find a clean minded nation here on earth.

    Porn should be made private to those dirty minded freaks who are desperate to see it, not appearing everywhere (from your web browser, to the retail stores) in ads.
    MrElectrifyer