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Iceland wants to ban Internet porn

Doug Gross, CNN
In Reyjkavik, Iceland's capital, government leaders are studying ways to ban Internet porn, calling it harmful to children.
In Reyjkavik, Iceland's capital, government leaders are studying ways to ban Internet porn, calling it harmful to children.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Iceland is studying ways to ban Internet porn
  • Government official says ban would be to protect children
  • Island nation already bans strip clubs and distributing porn
  • Parliament member says ban has "near zero" chance of passing

(CNN) -- Iceland is working on banning Internet pornography, calling explicit online images a threat to children.

'"There is a strong consensus building in Iceland," Halla Gunnarsdottir, an adviser to the nation's Interior Minister, told England's Daily Mail. "We have so many experts, from educationalists to the police and those who work with children behind this, that this has become much broader than party politics.

"At the moment, we are looking at the best technical ways to achieve this. But surely if we can send a man to the moon, we must be able to tackle porn on the Internet."

Such a step is somewhat surprising among Western nations that, for the most part, champion free-speech rights. But the move wouldn't be unprecedented in the island nation.

Iceland has had laws banning the printing and distribution of pornography for years, but those laws haven't been updated to include the Web. And two years ago, the nation's parliament banned strip clubs, saying they violate the rights of the women who work in them.

Iceland would become the first Western democracy to try and block pornography online.

READ: In the tech world, porn quietly leads the way

Interior Minister Ogmundur Jonasson has appointed committees to study the best methods for keeping young people from seeing explicit images and videos on computers, game consoles and smartphones.

The options being considered, according to the Daily Mail, include blocking the IP addresses of known porn sites and making it illegal to use credit cards from Iceland to subscribe to X-rated sites.

"This move is not anti-sex. It is anti-violence because young children are seeing porn and acting it out," Gunnarsdottir said. "That is where we draw the line. This material is blurring the boundaries for young people about what is right and wrong."

Attempting a total block of porn sites somewhere like the United States, with its legions of public and private portals onto the Web and the millions of software engineers who likely would spring into action to find workarounds, would be nearly impossible.

But Iceland has a population of 322,000 -- roughly the same as St. Louis, Missouri. That, and its remote location 1,300 miles off of the coast of Europe, would make jamming or blocking Web traffic to certain sites easier, if that was the route the government there chose.

The move is, predictably, drawing fire from Web-freedom advocates, including some in Iceland who agree with Jonasson on most issues.

"Since he claimed office as minister, Jonasson has brought forward progressive legislation and has shown that he can be a man of principles and courage. For that, I truly respect him," Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland's parliament who represents part of Reykjavik, wrote in an editorial for London's The Guardian.

"But he is way off track in his attempts to place a shield around Iceland in order to 'stop porn' from entering the country."

A member of the parliament committee studying the issue, Jonsdottir says a porn ban has "near zero" chance of passing parliament and that she's working to find other ways the government can help protect children from Web porn.

"Introducing censorship without compromising freedom of expression and speech is like trying to mix oil and water: It is impossible," she wrote. "I know my fellow MPs can often turn strange and dangerous laws into reality, but this won't be one of them."

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