Northern light – Iceland to attack the porn plague

Has the penny dropped at a last? Are we all about to wake up to the fact that our tolerance of the porn industry – or at best, our inept efforts to deal with it – is the greatest and most devastating cooperation in the evil of child abuse that the world has ever seen. Are we at last ready to accept that if a blatant act of showing pornographic images to a child is a form of child abuse, then so also is the broadcast of such images through film, TV, or over the Internet – at any hour of the day – also effectively the destruction of innocence.

Last week police in Australia gave a stark warning to parents to wake up to this. Now the government of Iceland is drafting legislation in an attempt to confront the plague. It is probably a bonus that it is liberal-minded Iceland doing this. Were it some Catholic country attempting to lead the way the cries of “censorship” and moans about “conservative reactionaries” would have been the inevitable result. With Iceland taking the vanguard position the project stands a much better chance of success.

The current issue of The Week reports that Iceland could become the first Western democracy to attempt to ban internet porn under radical new proposals announced last week. It already has laws forbidding the printing and distribution of porn (and bans lap dancing and strip clubs) but these laws have not been updated to cover the internet. Under the legislation being drafted by Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson, Iceland would introduce internet filters and firewalls similar to those used by China. It is also looking at other ways to enforce the proposed law, such as making it illegal to use Icelandic credit cards to access pay-per-view sex sites. The rationale for the ban is the damaging effects internet porn is held to have on children and on attitudes towards women.

Inevitably sceptics – and those with other agendas – argue that it would be impossible to enforce. Bravo for Iceland for at least trying.

Meanwhile, as though providing a preliminary statement for the prosecution of pornographers, a member of Australia’s Online Child Exploitation Squad (OCES), Detective Senior Sergeant Lindsay Garratt, said in an interview following the recent arrests of a sports coach and teacher whom police believe had been operating as online predators: “It wasn’t too many years ago that we were talking about stranger danger, the offender down at the playground” but now the internet “has brought the offenders into the house without parents being aware of it.

“Parents need to be aware of the enormity of the issues and do what they can to protect their own children. Parents need to take a lead role and educate kids.”

Advances in technology, he said, had expanded the dimensions of this problem enormously.

“We’re now in an environment where child exploitation material is really rife,” he said.

“In the early ’90s we were talking in megabytes and now we’re talking in gigabytes and terabytes and it won’t be long before we’re talking petabytes (one million gigabytes).”

He said that despite several warnings, “sexting” continued to be a major issue among teenagers and he was aware of cases involving children as young as 10 and 11. “As soon as a child is given access to a computer, the internet or a mobile phone, they really need to have a clear understanding of the risks,” he said.