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European Parliament Just Voted To Ban Porn, But Refrains From Extending Scope To Internet Following Protests, And Hides Who Voted For It

69

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech

The European Parliament has just voted in favor of the much-discussed blanket ban on all forms of pornography. But first, it decided to strike out the much-discussed extension of “media” into the internet, effectively limiting the ban to advertising and some undefined print media. It also struck out the original criminalization of any dissent against the report and the turning of ISPs into thought police. However, Parliament’s decision to filter out its constituents’ protests on the matter and decision to hide how the representatives voted on the report is a loud and clear warning signal.

(UPDATE: It would seem that the most correct interpretation of the decision is that the parliament decided to not ban pornography, despite voting in favor of a bill that called for enforcement on exactly such a ban. These things are not always clear-cut, to say the least, even for us who work with it daily. See the followup article.)

While this is an “initiative report”, which means it is not the final vote in the legislative process, it is still part of the legislative process. Some people have used the term “non-binding” to describe the report. I would disagree that such recklessness can be excused at any point in the legislative process with the somewhat strange argument that things aren’t finalized; if this lax attitude to quality and workmanship existed elsewhere in society, our cars would be falling apart and our food would be poisonous.

The original report banned sexual text messaging between consenting adults.

The report refers to an earlier report calling for a blanket ban on pornography in advertising, which it refers to as “the media”. But this new report redefines media to include the Internet to an unclarified degree (in point 14) – which can be as broad as making it illegal to send text messages with sexual content over the Internet between married couples.

That is a clear and intolerable violation of the most basic freedoms of speech and expression.

Fortunately, the entire point 14 – which expanded “the media” onto the internet – was deleted in the vote.

The European Parliament responded by deleting the explaining language, but not the legislative effect in bill.

To accommodate the storm of protests that ensued when this was first discovered, the report was amended to remove the explanation of what it did, but not the effect. Specifically, this part was taken out:

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

Do you see what this does? It removes the explanation, but not the referenced report, so it just hides the clarification.

The European Parliament responded by shutting off constituents’ protests.

But the next step was even worse. Some Members of European Parliament (MEPs) had complained to the Parliament’s IT staff about citizens protesting, so protests against this particular report were classified as spam. Meanwhile, hundreds of mails protesting agricultural subsidies kept coming in to the MEPs’ inboxes, so the spam filter was very specifically targeted. (Later tests confirmed that a test had been added that targeted the words “gender stereotypes”, which are in the title of the report).

When some MEPs can use Parliament’s technical infrastructure and staff to prevent the constitutents of Europe to contact their representatives — other representatives than the ones complaining, all representatives, nota bene — then the respect for democracy is on its death bed.

The original report made ISPs into thought police.

The report also called for ISPs to enforce the ban, as originally written (but this point was defeated on the floor). We have seen theses attacks on the messenger immunity under the flag of “self-regulation” from many incumbent interests. But it is not “self-”, because ISPs will be doing it to their customers, and it is not “regulation”, because they don’t get a say on the rules. It is “policing”. We have an institution in society to perform that function and that is indeed the Police. Private interests should never be tasked with law enforcement, and for very good reasons.

When ISPs are policing what you do privately on the internet, that is as close as you can get to a thought police today.

Fortunately, this point – point 14 – was defeated on the floor, along with point 19 below.

The original report criminalized dissent of the ban.

Point 19 of the original report is even more interesting. It reads (my highlights);

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 sexualization of girls

This may look good on the surface but is incredibly broad. First, “regulation bodies with the aim of controlling the media” is not good from any angle, regardless of how noble the aim may be. Politicians should never, ever, under any circumstance, have a say in what the media may write about them.

But note the second part of the mandate – impose “effective sanctions” (which means anything from fine to jail) on individuals that “promote sexualization of girls”.

Note that it doesn’t say “individuals that sexualize girls”. It says “promote sexualization of girls”. As in, express an idea that puts it in a positive light.

Combined with covering the internet, this goes as far as criminalizing the expression “I like pornography”, expressed by an individual in a private setting. Assuming women were involved, that would be a textbook promotion of such sexualization, and this report originally said that fines or jail should apply to that expressed thought.

Fortunately, this point was defeated (along with point 14) in the vote. But the idea that it could even go as far as the floor is horrifying.

The European Parliament hides who voted how.

Finally, the Parliament didn’t care to do a so-called “roll call vote” – a vote where it shows who voted how. In other words, they decided collectively to disable their consituents from holding them accountable. Thus, the only thing published is how Parliament voted as a whole.

The end result of the initiative report wasn’t as bad as it could have been – it mostly reaffirmed an ages-old and non-enforced ban on all forms of pornography in “the media”, which is still rather undefined. But without the points 14 and 19 defeated, the report would have looked entirely different.

This, along with the arrogance in deleting the explanation of what the report aimed at but not its effect, and the audacity of filtering out communication from constituents on a current affairs topic coming to a legislative vote, is quite damning for the European Parliament.

The process is much more cause for concern than the end product.

If the behavior of the European Parliament on this report is an indicator of the health of the institution of the European Union as a whole, then the federation’s democratic legitimacy is already dead beyond Rigor Mortis, and the institution of the European Union as such is at a dead end.

Meanwhile, we should be proud of ourselves as activists to having made noise on the issue. If we had not raised hell, the horrifying points 14 and 19 above would almost have been sure to pass in silence.

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About The Author: Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and is a political evangelist, traveling around Europe and the world to talk and write about ideas of a sensible information policy. He has a tech entrepreneur background and loves whisky.

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69

  1. 1
    AdamTM

    “and individuals promoting the sexualization of girls”

    What if I sexualized boys instead? Is that ok then? Why is this so female centered?

    • 1.1
      Jonas

      One problem with this ban is that it assumes that females are the weaker sex. I follow some intelligent female adult performers on Twitter who would be very upset about these news. It’s essentially taking away what many women have fought for during the phase of sexual liberation in the seventies.

    • 1.2
      noko

      You make it sound like men have rights…

  2. 2
    Jonas

    One further step in an uncomfortable direction.

    If this will come to effect, it will have far reaching effects in which art and culture we are allowed to produce. Erotic photography has been part of our culture since the daguerrotype method was invented in 1837, allowing us to produce fairly detailed photos. Before this, we had erotic drawings. Will these too be forbidden?

    This is as far as I know the first time we’ve had forms of specific expressions in art forbidden, and categories of art like fine art intruded upon. And that of the naked human form no less? The human form has been depicted in a more or less erotic form since the dawn of mankind. Further, these depictions do not seem to have impact our culture in a very negative way.

    It is only lately we have observed a rising problem with body images, however these are related to TV shows such as Top Model placing a very heavy emphasis on attempting to define beauty. Pornography does not intend to define beauty and is therefore far less damaging to a person’s body image. It only intends to sexually arouse. This is the one and only goal. Therefore, we have pornography accepting and depicting people in all shapes and sizes, since humans are attracted to many kinds of people.

    It is also a fallacy to think that this will protect people in the adult industry. This is only a train of thought that will remain logical if we assume that men and women wishing to show their sexuality are all victims, that no person can be an exhibitionist, and that exhibitionism must be a form of psychological problem that should be corrected. I personally follow a few women in this industry who would feel very frustrated by a legislation like this.

  3. 3
    Pedro

    This whole mess has left my soul/heart in a pretty bad shape. Like Rick said in the end, if people haven’t said anything, it could have been a lot worse. Still, everything that happened cannot be forgotten.

  4. 4
    ConcernedCitizen

    “Sex as an act that empowers the individual threatens a religion intent upon controlling society…Denying human freewill and condemning sexual pleasure made it easier to control and contain people.” ~ The Dark Side of Christian History, 33, by Helen Ellerbe.

    • 4.1
      Joska

      It seems feminism is becoming the religion of the 21st centuary.

      • 4.1.1
        Telzey Amberdon

        Nonsense, if that were at all true, women would currently be in possession of some actual power–which we demonstrably do not have.

        • Sandra

          Oh really? ‘Cause it pretty much seems like the feminist committee just managed to ban all forms of female objectification from advertising – yet completely left the objectification of men untouched. Equality my ass.

          Starting to see feminism for what it really is nowadays.

      • 4.1.2
        Scary Devil Monastery

        Someone please inform me how this can be considered “feminism”.

        This is simply the remains of the old puritan paradigm of northern europe trying to get some telling blows in before dying.

        Now go find someone who is a feminist and ask them how society donning the equivalent of an online burkha and instituting “moral watchguards” to enforce that behavior will promote gender equality. My guess is they’ll say it won’t.

        You WILL, however, find no small number of old men and ladies whose moral outrage over younger people getting to do everything they didn’t get to do outweighs reason and rationality. THEY will tell you this is for the good. Clutching some religious scripture in a white-knuckled fist while saying it.

        Objectifying women is quite OK with these people, as long as you can’t tell what is being objectified is a woman.

        • Autolykos

          Let’s just settle for an unholy alliance of religious nuts and misandrists masquerading as feminists. Too bad that they get to dominate the discourse and not the people in favour of actual equality.

  5. 5

    Wouldn’t that bit about “individuals promoting the sexualization of girls” make it illegal for parents to talk about their children, unless they put up a disclaimer saying that they had reproduced through artificial insemination and never touched each other in the process?

  6. 6
    Ano Nymous

    Does this mean that they want DVDs, magazines, TV programmes etc. with pornographic content to become illegal? Then I would not call the result good. Better than that and the internet, but still not good. Freedom of expression should apply regardless of what media is used, isn’t that one of the Pirate Party’s, like, cornerstone values?

  7. 7
    Byte

    Do what the Copyright Industry does: assume that “your” MEP voted in favour of the report, until they (or their affiliation) state that they voted against it (to be revisited if the numbers don’t add up).

    You can still call, and protest their voting in favour.

    The logic for this is that there was a majority in favour, so it is “more likely than not” that the MEP you are contacting actually voted in favour.

  8. 8
    sexsexsex

    I don’t think womens freedom to express their sexuality is bad for feminism.
    What do you think is noble about this effort?

    • 8.1
      harveyed

      There is of course nothing noble about that effort. What’s better by having your freedom sabotaged by a woman rather than by a man? Both men and women have the freedom to express their sexuality. It is oppression no matter if the moralist legislator is a man or a woman.

  9. 9
    Anonymous

    so, how do we now progress our protests over the ‘spam filter being enabled’ and also over the ‘keep the individual votes secret? who do we protest to? will those protests ever get anywhere? now the EU MPs know that they can have emails filtered to remove protests, what will the next thing be that is filtered? you can bet your arses that the entertainment industries will be all over this, trying to get introduced some new, disproportionate and discriminatory law that is against the best interests of everyone except those industries. that will be even more true with the onset of ‘trade talks’ between the EU and the USA, considering the warning that has already been put out by Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue, warning of excluding the public and the public interests from any negotiations

  10. 10
    Anonymous

    The spam filter and the removal of public votes is the worst part of the story, really seems like dodging transparency and accountability here.

    But the language is also awful, it is so broad and vague. And wasn’t there a female revolution ? This sounds like something out of the middle east or middle ages that makes female sexuality evil once again. The making ISPs act as a police is just a very very flawed idea that has grave long term consequences and policy makers should drop it already. Giving the law reach into our homes and personal matters would have been madness makes it oppression of a whole different level.

    The whole proposal honestly lacks any clear intent, a purpose, there is no logic behind it. What rights is it actually trying to protect, how will it actually improve society?

    These freedoms have helped society greatly and meddling with such hard to earn and easy to lose freedoms without taking the matter seriously is very unwise and reckless.

  11. 11
    Anonymous trans-woman

    There is one really odd thing about the entire proposal: it contains words such as ‘woman’ and ‘girls’. This means that the proposal is discriminating based on gender. Hence the proposal itself is actually advocating (instead of eliminating) gender stereotypes.

    Also, I would really want to be able to hold those who obstructed/sabotaged democracy accountable.

    • 12.1
      Pedro

      I might be missing something here but according to that page the rapporteur is not the one who first came up with this, unless i’m making a confusion here. If so i’m sorry . Either way, if this is the vote itself, then… well… i really don’t know what to say.

      Anyway, i still have “that bad feeling” about all this…

    • 12.2
      relghuar

      Thanks a lot for this. Now I know there’s not a single MEP from my country willing to stand up to censorship. Just great.

    • 12.3

      That doesn’t look like the right one – this report, which set out to ban porn online, was called “Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU” or something very similar…?

  12. 13
    relghuar

    “respect for democracy is on its death bed”

    Really? Please. Respect for democracy in EU power structures has been dead and burried so long you wouldn’t even find a rotting corpse by now. Much less so when there are tons of new regulations and centralization heaped on its grave every year.

  13. 14
    6.941

    The kicker is that this doesn’t even have much of a shot at reducing gender inequality.

    Porn is a category. It isn’t somehow inherently degrading to a person. But, as is the case with all media, the spectrum of it becomes a portrait of the way the society that produces and consumes it thinks. That’s why so much of it caters to this anemic male power fetish. The fetish is what breeds the oppression; porn just brings it to light.

    The bind is in that people are too conscious to overtly condone the sexual asymmetry, but not conscious enough to recognize that so many aspects of their worldview, e.g. gener identity and gender image, are based on exactly that asymmetry. So when the asymmetry is on obvious display, as it is in porn, it offends their sensibilities even as it excites them.

    What is the ideal of sex that is most agreeable to our sense of “what is right”? It’s youth, vitality, passion and joy, freely and happily shared, adding up to much more than the sum of its parts. So, keeping that in mind, does our culture mainly produce porn of young people A and B running off laughing into the summer night and finding out exactly what it is like to have sex on the grass, on the beach, in the lake, in the trees, in the pretty glow of the moon? No! It makes videos about a secretary with inexplicable breasts, entirely unreciprocally, blowing her smug overweight boss as a routine event in the course of the office day.

    I appreciate that there’s a place for something like that in the moderate wing of the rather imaginative ranks of kink material, but right now it’s the norm. Consider the situation in reverse: unattractive office boss lady receives cunnilingus from a male secretary, then discards him for the rest of the day, without the man’s penis getting involved even once. All of a sudden it sounds strange (from a porn-making standpoint). Not even to mention symmetric scenarios, because, I mean, two equal people having happy guilt-free sex? Apparently, a niche market.

  14. 16
    Juche

    BAN PORN! We need morality.

  15. 17
    Sam

    Ridiculous article.

    Europe would not BAN PORN, it’s more likely that USA would ban hot dogs, or Australia would ban beer.

    I suppose this resolution was about stopping pornographic and overly sexual or sexist ADVERTISING in MAINSTREAM MEDIA, such as free-to-air television, newspapers, non-porn magazines.

    If the EU actually moved to ban porn, Holland would quit the EU in about 10 minutes, and the other member states would soon follow. Can you imagine the social upheaval and economic impact of a sudden, outright ban on porn? It’s ridiculous.

    All I learned here is that falkvinge.net will post sensationalist and deceptive nonsense!

    • 17.1

      While it’s not the first time it happens, I can feel a lot of frustration when I quote chapter and verse from legislative text that can’t be misunderstood, and people dismiss it as “that can’t possibly happen”.

      The last time that happened was with the general wiretapping bill in Sweden, which introduced general wiretapping of the entire population. People thought I was lying about that, despite reading direct from the proposed bill. Very frustrating.

      That passed too.

      • 17.1.1
        Ano Nymous

        Happens to me too from time to time. I don’t know what kind of detergent the mainstream media use to brainwash people, but being that effecive, it sure can’t be eco-friendly!

        I must have a very dirty mind, since it hasn’t worked on me yet :-P

    • 17.2
      Techanon

      If in doubt, go to the source to verify the facts (there were links given in the article, one of them points to the report itself).

  16. [...] is happening in Europe? The European Parliament is in a process of serious deliberation in which it is close to banning pornography.  That fact that it is even seriously considering [...]

  17. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  18. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  19. [...] so, Users of European Parliament (MEPs) taken off explanatory wording from the porn ban part, in essence limiting the ban to marketing and print [...]

  20. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  21. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  22. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  23. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  24. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  25. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  26. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  27. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  28. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  29. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  30. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  31. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  32. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  33. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  34. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  35. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  36. 18
    Anonymous

    so, the EU has banned porn but in the next breath has banned freedom over money by dismissing TPB appeal in favour of supporting the USA entertainment industries. what a freakin’ joke! it’s a bloody insult to peoples intelligence!

  37. [...] Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print [...]

  38. [...] abrangente e pouco explicada. Ativistas como Rick Falkvinge, fundador do Partido Pirata Sueco, afirmam que, com a medida, governos e empresas conseguiriam o direito de invadir a privacidade do [...]

  39. [...] European Parliament Just Voted To Ban Porn, But Refrains From Extending Scope To Internet Following … [...]

  40. [...] angesichts zehntausender E-Mails veranlasst sah, Gegenmaßnahmen einzuleiten. Dann schrieb er einen Blog-Beitrag, in dem er nicht-rechtsverbindliche Initiativberichte, wie den zum „Pornoverbot“, als „Teil [...]

  41. [...] det besvärade mig att en morgon gå igenom mitt RSS-flöde och märka att två av partiets mest framstående män hade lagt ut en gemensam populistisk linje i frågan om pornografi på [...]

  42. 19
    anton2013

    I do see pornography gone to extreme which was before a bit more sexy and now is to vulgar and humans seems like animals,turn to trash but I do think that all this pornography going to extreme was done with purpose so later can be after the problem a solution; to ban it all…I think that the west soon will replace the islam world and mentality… and be like it … to conservative,but going out the centre in the first time was a bad idea and to go to other extreme from to liberal to conservative is bad also and far from the centre. The samething happen with left and right wings…so to much bending going on untill the humanity is all broken.This experiments were stupid to do against the world in the lab planet of human rats…animals now turn all to zombies, frankestain creatures.So humanity is a victim in both east and west

  43. [...] The European Parliament has just voted in favor of the much-discussed blanket ban on all forms of po… [...]

  44. 20
    Mr.J

    I think what is happening here is subterfuge and misdirection.

    Even if the parliament managed to pass a porn ban, it would erupt in criticism so quickly it would surely never go into effect without being appealed or repealed. Hell, I’ve heard numbers as high as 40% of internet traffic relates to porn. Do you really think they could legislate a cut to an industry by 40% and get away with it? You have to ask yourself why are they spending so much time stirring up this oh-so-divisive subject right now?

    Maybe what’s going on is they are stirring up the pot on an inflammatory issue as a slight of hand trick to keep attention from something else. Say Cyprus or another chess move with even more disastrous consequences. Pay attention people, and keep a sharp eye out for other subjects being quietly pushed while you are yelling about this. This isn’t about porn. You can bet on it.

  45. 21
    Juan Khmer

    I thought you guys had separation of church and state., since when and how did you let religious zealots infiltrate the EU? Haven’t you folks learned from your painful past? “Fascism will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross”

    This travesty looks like it was orchestrated by the Westboro baptist church and the Muslim Brotherhood.. What next? Mandate Burqas for women’s “own good and protection”?
    Are you for real!??

    • 21.1

      I thought you guys had separation of church and state

      No such thing in the European Union. We tax our religious superstitious organizations like anyone else, and they’re allowed to run for office like anyone else.

      Cheers,
      Rick

  46. 22

    zutkygbmlwjohf/ofu, Levitra, BwMtgKt, [url=http://levitraquestions.com/]Levitra[/url], BlrQLdz, http://levitraquestions.com/ Levitra ear ring, EkMCSYl.

  47. [...] on the “Next Tuesday”: The bill passed but only after significant watering-down removing the worst of [...]

  48. […] the passages in the Bible are pretty damn racy — have you read Song of Songs? This is what makes attempts at blanket bans on porn problematic. Besides, they can be extended to cover copyright and political dissent. So what do we […]

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