If you keep up on all things Scandinavian — as I’m sure you all do — then you’re well aware that Iceland’s government is looking for a way to ban Internet porn. Or, at least the violent kind. Whatever that means.
There are already regulations in place that limit the kind of sexual material that can be distributed in print, but Ogmundur Jonasson, Iceland’s interior minister, has proposed that those regulations be expanded to online porn. In an interview with The Guardian, Halla Gunnarsdottir, the political adviser to the interior minister, seems to sum up the goal of the minister’s proposal:
“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.”
Clearly, Gunnarsdottir doesn’t think much of her country’s teens’ collective ability to search for Internet porn. But let’s say Icelandic 12-year-olds actually type “porn” into Google (which, by the way, is like going to Times Square for a slice of pizza) to get their smut. Want to see if Gunnarsdottir’s claims are true? Try for yourself — you’ll see that what comes up isn’t exactly “hardcore and brutal violence,” even with SafeSearch off. Now, what do you get when you search for “hardcore and brutal violence?” Something considerably less sexy. And how are we going to deal with the gray area that is hardcore porn that takes place in a field? What then, Halla, what then?
But that’s a conversation for another time. The issue here, or at least the one I’d like to point out, is that censoring the Internet as an attempt to protect children is misguided. Anything “bad” that happens online has a significantly worse counterpart in the real world. On the Internet, some people watch child porn. That’s bad. But in the real world, some people make child porn. That’s worse. Online, criminals steal innocent victims’ personal information and use that data to commit fraud. In the real world, criminals steal personal information and use that data to commit murder. Worse yet, some people use the Internet to illegally download music by the band Nickleback. Worst of all, some people are the band Nickleback.
See what I mean? If you want to protect your children, Iceland, teach them how to cope with violence, both online and in the real world. If the fear is that children will see depictions of violent sex acts and then go on to commit acts of sexual violence, then the solution is to teach them not to commit acts of sexual violence. Attempting to remove the inspiration isn’t enough. And if Iceland’s government is simply worried that their little angels will stumble onto objectionable Internet content out of youthful innocence, then these adults have a larger task than they originally thought. Have you seen the Internet lately? It’s disgusting!
In any democratic society, the debate over what constitutes free expression is a healthy one to have. However, Iceland isn’t attempting to stifle expression, but merely consumption. If the government really has a problem with “hardcore and brutal violence” in pornography — that is, if it takes issue with the mistreatment of women in under-regulated adult entertainment industries — then it should make attempts to protect actors from unfair and unsafe working conditions. If, however, Icelandic officials are just having a hard time differentiating between depictions of violence and actual violence itself, maybe they should get offline and into the real world. There’s plenty of objectionable content for them to grapple with out there.
Jacob Fromm is an LSA senior.