And they say feminists are hysterical...

(174 Posts)
FloraFox Thu 28-Feb-13 19:38:27

www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/28/iceland-porn-ban-free-society

So a group of activists from different countries (including Laurie Penny) have penned this gem of a letter to the Icelandic minister in charge of the pornography ban proposal. It includes such gems as:

"The current discussion of blocking pornographic content has offered no definition, no evidence and suggested no technology. This is an affront to the basic principles of the society..."

Eh? What basic principle of society would that be?

"Rather than silencing a voice, the result is depriving the population of material they can see and read. This is censorship, as it skews the way people see the world."

What? Through the filter of a woman's vagina?

"The right to see the world as it is, is critical to the very tenets and functions of a democracy and must be protected at all costs."

Just, fucking, wow.

"The prohibition of pornographic content may create demand for an underground porn industry, unregulated and most certainly affiliated with other illegal activities..."

So we must not regulate pornography on the internet because if we do, an unregulated porn industry might arise. OK, got it.

flora Has anyone on this thread said that they are pro-porn or anti-feminist? Disagreeing with you personally doesn't equate to either of these things.

PromQueenWithin Wed 06-Mar-13 09:50:13

The technicalities themselves do throw up some non technical questions though, my understanding of what you've said is that there isn't the technology to make "value judgements" IYKWIM about what should be allowed through and what should be blocked.

The filter can only do exactly what it has been told, and because we can't define adequately the porn we'd like to block using language a filter can work with, either it will miss loads and therefore be pointless, or it will block too much and therefore be censorship, infringement of rights, open to abuse and present a skewed view (though I do want to snort a little at the latter point, because I'd prefer a view skewed towards women being seen as humans rather than sex toys to subjugate, as they are in a lot - not all, but a lot - of porn).

But still, I'd be interested to understand more about what civil liberties / freedom of expression online might people in Iceland lose, and does the loss outweigh the harm that easy access to predominantly misogynistic porn does to society?

"The filter can only do exactly what it has been told, and because we can't define adequately the porn we'd like to block using language a filter can work with, either it will miss loads and therefore be pointless, or it will block too much and therefore be censorship, infringement of rights, open to abuse and present a skewed view"

Spot on.

In terms of what it whether the loss outweighs the harm, I think if we were to block all porn, we'd also lose a lot of very important sites. I think the internet is a wonderful anonymous way for teenagers to get advice on sex, sexuality and intimate health issues. It is highly likely these would be blocked along with the porn. I think that is too great a loss.

However if the only options were a centralised porn filter or nothing, then I think that probably the loss would be necessary (even though it would still not be a good thing).

Trekkie Wed 06-Mar-13 10:01:14

I really don't think that the judgement of whether a law should be enacted or not, should be based on whether it is enforcable or not.

In the UK we have the obscene publications acts - which are very subjective - but if someone is found to have been viewing something which the police & prosecutors believe breaches the law and they want to prosecute, the law is there to allow them to do that.

If that law isn't there, then there is no ability for anyone to be prosecuted for viewing even the most extreme material.

If people are arguing for the removal of all censorship & laws relating to that, then that's I suppose a coherent argument but personally I don't agree with it.

"In the UK we have the obscene publications acts - which are very subjective - but if someone is found to have been viewing something which the police & prosecutors believe breaches the law and they want to prosecute, the law is there to allow them to do that."

And that's good and could be expanded. But it's not the same thing as a filter - which is what the letter is about.

"I really don't think that the judgement of whether a law should be enacted or not, should be based on whether it is enforcable or not."

That has to play some part though. I mean if the govt said they were going to make it illegal to think something, that would obviously be ludicrous because they couldn't enforce it.

Leithlurker Wed 06-Mar-13 10:21:57

The bigger issue about a central filter is who controls it, what levels and mechanisms of arbitration are available, and what the punishments for breaking the ban would be. Oh and also how it is to be updated as the one thing we can predict is that culture moves on and with it will come new words, visual images, music etc that will try and bend if not cross the line.

Taking music as an example if a filter was looking for words common in say rap, that would mean that genre of music would be virtually dead as those that follow it use technology not just to listen to it but watch videos, blog, tweet, etc. Now that might be something that people will see as something they are prepared to lose as the music and the performers are hardly paragons of of feminism.

However black women, black feminist women across the globe will be up in arms as the music is expressly linked to a particular culture, and a particular kind of world view. I would imagine that some black activists, and even some feminist activists would see the result of banning rap because it fails the filter, as an attack on there culture. This has happened in the past when rap got started and a great moral outcry was had about the gun violence aspect, the rap community and the wider black community responded by saying that gun culture, like drugs, and the role women play, are all linked to the lives experienced by their community. Thats one example.

I was ridiculed by someone who's name I no longer see or recognise for talking about mind control, as dramatic as that sounds, if you impose limits on what is acceptable to see and hear, if you reduce the freedom of the individual and instead impose as tae directed norm, and threaten to punish any deviance from that norm. You creating either a stalinist or fascist state where liberty of thought is controlled.

PromQueenWithin Wed 06-Mar-13 10:36:15

"This has happened in the past when rap got started and a great moral outcry was had about the gun violence aspect, the rap community and the wider black community responded by saying that gun culture, like drugs, and the role women play, are all linked to the lives experienced by their community"

I don't think anyone would deny the right of people living in communities where gun violence and drugs are prevalent to tell their stories in ways they felt were appropriate. Well, maybe some people would like to, but not me. But you can't expect me to believe that:

1. The majority of those people living in high gun crime / drugs neighbourhoods are keen to keep those things in their lives (apart from those that benefit from the activities of course)?

2. A majority of black feminists think that the way women are portrayed in rep music and surrounding culture is a positive thing for women (apart from those women that gain their power and livelihood from participation)?

Just because some is doesn't mean it should be. That's a cop out imo.

PromQueenWithin Wed 06-Mar-13 10:36:52

*rap, not rep grin

PromQueenWithin Wed 06-Mar-13 10:37:22

Just because something for crying out loud!

Leithlurker Wed 06-Mar-13 10:46:28

I am not engaging in the discussion about what individual communities think is legitimate, nor the rights or wrongs of what one type of medium says about a culture. I was responding with an example, and I think that others will exist of, the type of issues that might come about from the setting up of a filter. Which is what you wanted some input on paw

The other angle where by hard line christens, muslims, jews, would like all mention of sex changed to be in line with their own doctrine.

PromQueenWithin Wed 06-Mar-13 11:02:15

So you gave an example to illustrate your disagreement with a filter, but you'd prefer I didn't explore its implications for the overall discussion?

And I think you might be dipping a toe into moral relativism with the religion argument. It's an interesting contribution for sure, because the filter that a Christian social conservative would construct would be different from the 'hey, women are humans too' versions being discussed here, but it very quickly leads to a point where any and all exchange of views is pointless.

Leithlurker Wed 06-Mar-13 11:45:13

PMW your response is why I am not engaging, I am not asking you to do anything or dip your toe anywhere. You wanted to know what some of the issue of bringing in a filter would be, what would be lost against what would be gained.

What you read is your buisness what I was pointing to is that a one size fits all filter will have implications that will enrage and piss off some people and communities, but on the other hand will probably not go far enough in terms of the more religious people want. If you want to talk about how a filter could get past that in order to achieve a barrier then feel free. Otherwise since you are from the same mindset as flora then you want a total ban and nothing will get in the way of that so I expect your thinking to be closed off.

Just another related thought if banning things or putting filters in worked, then surely we would not have racism. Or communism would still be alive and kicking. In short imposing a ban will not change society in the way you want, the only way to do that is at the point of a gun.

The icelandic proposal is another politician making promises they cannot keep, allowing dogma and politicle ideaology to rule not the interest of the wider society.

PromQueenWithin Wed 06-Mar-13 12:01:17

Wow. There's so much in your post I could respond to. There's almost a thesis worth of response to write. Unfortunately, I've already got one of those with a deadline screaming towards me...

Thanks though for telling me what I can and can't discuss. Oh, and also what I'm thinking. To quote my namesake, "wicked skills!"

"Just another related thought if banning things or putting filters in worked, then surely we would not have racism. Or communism would still be alive and kicking. In short imposing a ban will not change society in the way you want, the only way to do that is at the point of a gun."

Now, I know that you don't want me to respond to the specific examples you post, but surely the fact that legislation has significantly improved the lots of both women, non-white people and hey, let's chuck in non-straight people too (not enough, but it's better than before) hasn't passed you by?

What I am interested in discussing is this apparent authoritarian censorship versus interest of the wider society dichotomy that you seem to have constructed. Once again, just because something is the way it is now, doesn't mean that it shouldn't and can't change.

And I did ask people what they thought would be lost and what would be gained, as as far as I can see (and yep, I've just rescanned your posts once again) you haven't answered that...?

PromQueenWithin Wed 06-Mar-13 12:03:06

And also, did you just "mansplain" recent social history and current political theory to me grin?

Trekkie Wed 06-Mar-13 13:54:37

But there are limits on what it is acceptable to see. There are limits in every country in the world (I would have thought) with various laws which can be used when people seek out things to view that are deemed unacceptable.

This conversation seems to forget that basic fact, as if the existing position in western society is that people are allowed to consume whatever kind of media images etc they like. This is not true. Viewing some things is illegal. Just because a person has the ability to look at something, does not render it legal, it does not change the law. We do have censorship in the UK, and we do have restrictions on what we are allowed to say, look at and so on. This conversation often seems to be framed as if that were not the case.

But the reason the letter in the OP was written wasn't because of making porn illegal, it was because of plans to make a centralised internet porn filter.

They are two separate arguments.

scaevola Wed 06-Mar-13 14:21:36

When the Icelandic Government publishes what measures, including the (undefined) technological ones it appears to be putting at the core of its agenda thus far, then the debate really starts.

At the moment, all there is appears to be a vague statement that they aspire to a technological solution, and the response quoted from in OP points out why there is (currently) no feasible option for that aspect, short of the levels of censorship used by a couple of totalitarian regimes (who are rightly criticised for having infrastructure which permits heavy censorship).

The writers of the letter in OP also point out how existing technology can best be used in order to protect children. A public education campaign to ensure this information is readily available, and possibly public funds to subsidise any preferred domestic filters (though there are very good free options available), might be a better use of time/funds, especially as it would also provide an opportunity to promote change in society's attitudes.

Trekkie Wed 06-Mar-13 15:20:20

The open letter isn't concentrating on technology, it is asserting that any restriction on what people see or read is anathema.

It overlooks entirely that most (all?) countries in the world have restrictions on what people are allowed to see or read.

I find the open letter confusing and badly written. I also find their bald statement that "the internet is not the source of violence" peculiar - if they mean that people are violent not the internet then that is true but the existence of the internet has certainly caused direct harm to many people. They should have been clearer I think in what they meant in that part.

The open letter is in direct response to a plan for a centralised filter, so it is about technology and the bits about censorship refer to how a centralised filter always gets used.

I will agree that bits of it aren't well written though. I think they've tried to cram too many points into too short a letter, and some of them have got garbled.

Trekkie Wed 06-Mar-13 16:54:30

Do you have a link to the actual proposals? I have only been able to find the item that I linked to earlier.

Trekkie Wed 06-Mar-13 16:58:20

This part

"Traditionally, censorship has involved preventing publication and persecution of people with unpopular opinions. On the Internet, censorship has taken a new guise. It doesn’t merely prevent publication, but also restricts people’s access to the information they seek. Rather than silencing a voice, the result is depriving the population of material they can see and read. This is censorship, as it skews the way people see the world. It is tempting to regard filtering the internet as a quick and easy way to restrict unwanted speech, opinions, or media, which the government regards as harmful for either them or the people. The right to see the world as it is, is critical to the very tenets and functions of a democracy and must be protected at all costs."

But they are overlooking the fact that in most (all?) countries in the world there are restrictions not only on what you can publish, but also on what people are allowed to see and read. I don't understand why they are approaching this as if in democracies at the moment there is no restriction or censorship. That is just not true and I'm afraid that for me it undermines anything else they may be trying to say. Are they really against all restrictions and censorship? Do they want to dismantle all the existing laws? They are not being straightforward, I think.

Leithlurker Wed 06-Mar-13 17:27:09

PQW if your only response is to belittle and accuse me of things that are subjective not objective then please do get on with your work.

Are you seriously saying that hate crime still persist despite years of having an out right ban on racist language and images? If you are I suggest you need to check your perception. If you are being deliberately obtuse, then perhaps you would like to explain from your point of view what the Stephen Lawrence case, was all about 20 odd years after the passing in to law of the race relations act. Similerly, do please explain how you will prevent women being objectified by a man?

PromQueenWithin Wed 06-Mar-13 17:35:43

Why are you getting so riled Leith? I'm really not trying to belittle or be rude to you, merely attempting to engage in an exchange of views.

"Are you seriously saying that hate crime still persist despite years of having an out right ban on racist language and images?"

Well clearly hate crime still persists, I don't think anyone is trying to deny that, but I'd also suggest that overall, society is somewhat less racist than it was before hate speech and racist imagery etc was A-OK legally. Of course, I'll freely acknowledge my white privilege in making such an assumption and be happy (well, sad) to stand corrected on my perception that racism has reduced in the last 30 years*

*arbitrary time period for discursive purposes

Sorry, what was the point of this again? deliberately ignoring insults directed at self

scaevola Mon 20-May-13 13:49:36

An envoi to this thread: Did the Icelandic Government publish anything before the elections which turned these intentions into a set of technologically possible measures? Or did it remain in the realms of 'if we can put a man on the moon we can do something'?

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