Iceland's Plan to Ban Porn Is Impossible

The Atlantic Wire

Iceland's intentions are good: their interior minister wants to protect the country's children from violent images in porn. But to understand the proposed ban — a sweep of online content that "would define pornography as material with violent or degrading content," rather than censor anything per se, according to the AP — is to understand that the Icelandic government doesn't quite get the breadth of its undertaking. So before you get all worked up about what "degrading" porn looks like or make a free-speech argument, here's an outline of Iceland's would-be policy, and why it might not work anyway:

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Make it illegal to pay for porn with Icelandic credit cards. That sounds effective in theory, but there is a myriad of free streaming porn sites, and that wouldn't do much about all people who download porn illegally — the latter has plagued the United States's porn industry. Also, if someone is determined to pay for porn on the Internet, there's certainly a way to pay for things without an Icelandic credit card. 

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Make a list of banned sites without going all North Korea. Not only would the government list be completely subjective, it would also have to be constantly updated by some kind of porn-hunter division. But according to CNN "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."

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Build a national Internet filter, maybe while going all Iran. Again, this would be subjective and argued relentlessly. But a look at Iran's filtration of World of Warcraft, which technically was banned in Iran — even before Blizzard, the company which produces the game, enforced the U.S. sanctions on Iranian gamers in August — reveals that you can't exactly stop users who want something so badly they'll find a workaround. "[T]housands usually access the game through VPNs, proxy servers and other techie things that you probably don't know about unless your every waking hour is consumed with slaying dragons in the plains of Kalimdor," wrote Vice's Henry Langston. People are passionate about their porn, and there isn't even a U.S. sanction against Iceland to help enforce the blockade. Not nearly.

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Photo by fotoscool via Shutterstock

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