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EU Porn Ban? MEPs Attack 'Gender Stereotypes Resolution' Proposal For International Women's Day

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It's the continent that brought the world Page Three and nudist beaches, but these images could be on their way to being banned on the internet, beginning with a resolution at the European Parliament next week.

Ostensibly, on its title alone, no-one could object to the resolution "on eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU", announced to mark International Women's Day.

It was introduced to by Dutch MEP Kartika Liotard, recommending a "ban all forms of pornography in the media," including what it refers to as "the digital field."

It also calls for the establishment of regulatory agencies with "a mandate to impose effective sanctions on companies and individuals promoting the sexualisation of girls."

The chances of a EU-wide ban on porn are, undoubtably, slim, with many stages of reports and votes which would have to pass before the idea got anywhere near law. But it is the vague wording that has worried some, as the word "media" is undefined.

Many believe that a ban on pornographic images in the media would have a postive effect on the fight against sexism. Jacqui Hunt, the London director of Equality Now told HuffPost UK: "The media has a privileged place within contemporary society.

"Equality Now encourages all measures which seek to build a truly equal and democratic society, where women and girls do not have to experience prejudice or fear physical and psychological abuse."

Christian Engström, a Swedish MEP for the Pirate Party, voiced strong criticism of the motion. On his blog, he wrote: "As always, the devil is in the detail.

"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”.

"Magazines and cable television would presumably be considered to be ”media” by most people, but what about the internet? Without any definition of ”media” in either of the two resolutions, the answer is not obvious from reading just those two articles, at least not to me.

"This is quite clearly yet another attempt to get the internet service providers to start policing what citizens do on the internet, not by legislation, but by ”self-regulation”. This is something we have seen before in a number of different proposals, and which is one of the big threats against information freedom in our society.

"Although I completely agree that eliminating outdated gender stereotypes in the EU is a worthwhile goal, I will be voting against this resolution next week."

The vote on the report is not legally binding on any state if passed, but could pave the way for further legislation.

The issue has caused understandable consternation online. Engström reported receiving many hundreds of emails on the subject, as did his European colleagues. But he also reported that the IT system later had emails from constituents blocked.

"The IT department of the European Parliament is blocking the delivery of the emails on this issue, after some members of the parliament complained about getting emails from citizens.

"This is an absolute disgrace, in my opinion. A parliament that views input from citizens on a current issue as spam, has very little democratic legitimacy in my opinion.

"I will be writing a letter to the President of the European Parliament to complain about this totally undemocratic practice."

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But even internet safety organisations are loathe to support such a measure. John Carr, secretary of the Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety, told HuffPost UK: "While one can understand people's anxiety about what porn children might access online, and it's a good sentiment, one cannot imagine this would garner support, it's too illiberal and too impractical."

In February, an Icelandic politician's proposed ban on Internet pornography was roundly criticized by free speech advocates.

Printed pornography and strip clubs are already banned in Iceland.

Last week, an international group of free speech campaigners, activists and academics issued an open letter to Iceland Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson condemning the proposed online pornography ban. I

"Iceland is a liberal democratic state which should not serve as a role model for Internet censorship," the letter read, warning that blocking pornographic content online "may create demand for an underground porn industry, unregulated and most certainly affiliated with other illegal activities."

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