European Parliament considers a ban on “all pornography”, policed by private companies

By EDRi · March 7, 2013

The ridiculous efforts of certain companies to censor the Internet are already a serious cause for concern. This trend becomes even more worrying when such privatised censorship gets political support.

Next week, the European Parliament votes on a non-binding resolution supporting a ban on “all forms of pornography” (paragraph 17), with online policing being done by private companies (paragraph 14).

Concretely, this would mean asking Facebook and other companies to regulate online communications. It would mean more of this:

*Facebook banned a photo because its automatic censorship software mistook an elbow for a nipple,

*Facebook banned a photo of a porcelain doll because it had two diamonds which represented nipples,

*Facebook banned an “Adam and Eve” cartoon from the New Yorker magazine, because two of the dots in the cartoon represented Eve’s nipples (the dots representing Adam’s nipples are acceptable, according to Facebook’s terms of service!),

*and Facebook banned entire support pages for breastfeeding women because they were deemed to be “obscene”.

Specifically, the proposal:

*asks the European Commission to take action to ban “all forms of pornography” (based on whose definition? Covering nudity in films or other artistic works? Nobody knows).
*asks (as in ACTA) for regulation of freedom of communication in the online environment by private companies, outside the rule of law. The resolution suggests enforcement of “gender equality” through “a charter to which all internet operators will be invited to adhere”.

Thankfully, if adopted, the draft resolution would not be legally binding. It is also extremely badly drafted and almost certainly too absurd to be taken seriously. However, it is still important for the European Parliament not to undermine its own credibility with such proposals. It is also important not to give any support to privatisation of the regulation of our freedom of speech.

The vote takes place next Tuesday (12 March).

Will your MEP be supporting this absurdity?