An EU proposal to ban porn through ”self-regulation”

pornbanNext week in Strasbourg, probably on Tuesday, the European Parliament will be voting on a Report on eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU. To promote gender equality and eliminating gender stereotypes are of course very laudable goals, so my guess would be that unless something happens, the report will be approved by the parliament, possibly by a very large majority.

But as always, the devil is in the detail.

Article 17 of the report says (with 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 resolution of 16 September 1997 in turn said:

5. Calls for statutory measures to prevent any form of pornography in the media and in advertising and for a ban on advertising for pornographic products and sex tourism;

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.

But the resolution we will be voting on next week has other things to say about the internet. Article 14 reads (again with my highlighting):

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;

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.

The digital rights organisation EDRI has produced a booklet called The slide from ”self-regulation” to corporate censorship, where they point out that:

…now, increasing coercion of internet intermediaries to police and punish their own consumers is being implemented under the flag of “self-regulation” even though it is not regulation – it is policing – and it is not “self-” because it is their consumers and not themselves that are being policed.

In the battle against the ACTA treaty, the fact that ACTA contained similar ”self-regulation” proposals to get internet service providers to start policing their customers was one of the reasons why the European Parliament rejected the treaty in the end.

Many members of the parliament (including me) felt and feel that this kind of ”self-regulation” is nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the article on information freedom in the European Convention on Human rights, which says that everyone has the right to receive and impart information without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers, and that any restrictions to this right have to be prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society.

Next week’s resolution is a so-called ”own initiative report” by the parliament. This means that it does not automatically become law even if it is adopted, but is just a way for the European parliament to express its opinion.

But the purpose of these own initiative reports are to serve as the basis for the Commission when it decides to present legislative proposals to the parliament. If this own initiative report is adopted by the parliament, it will strengthen the Commission’s position if and when it wants to propose various ”self-regulation” schemes in the future.

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.

engstrom

 

 

Christian Engström, Member of the European Parliament for Piratpartiet, Sweden

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