EU votes to reject 'porn ban' proposals

The European Parliament opts not to adopt a pan-European ban on all forms of porn, including on the Web, at least for now. Such a vote has happened before, and it's worth putting the "porn ban" into some context.

European citizens can breathe a sigh of relief after a vote in the European Parliament has rejected proposals to ban "all forms of pornography" -- including on the Web -- in the region.

The European Parliament votes in favor of the report, but rejects the 'porn ban' section. European Parliament via broadcast

Today, 625 members of the European Parliament voted 368-159 in favor of passing a report aimed at stamping out gender stereotypes in the region, with 98 abstaining. However, the controversial "porn ban" section of the proposal was rejected.

This vote forms a majority opinion based on Europe's voting politicians, from which the European Commission can form legislation. Such a law would again be voted upon, and become legally binding in the 27 member state bloc of the EU.

Because the opinion of the Parliament has now been made, it will be extraordinarily difficult for the Commission to draw up similar porn-blocking legislation only to pass it back to the Parliament for another vote.

These porn-blocking proposals, initially introduced by Dutch Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Socialist Party Kartika Tamara Liotard, were buried within a report titled "Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU," which was first submitted to the Parliament in early December. The report no doubt had positive intentions as a bid to close the gender inequality gap in the region by developing awareness and effective measures to reduce the prevalence of gender stereotypes in education, employment, and the media.

However, controversy quickly stirred because the report included such wide-ranging and ill-defined measures as calling on the European Union to reaffirm its position on an earlier resolution for a "ban on all forms of pornography in the media," as well as giving Internet service providers "policing rights" over their subscribers.

Amendments to the report removed certain explanatory text, but not the references to the previous resolution that was passed by the Parliament, which called for a blanket ban on pornography in the region in 1997.

While the explanation was removed, the effect was not, according to Swedish MEP for the Pirate Party Rick Falkvinge.

He explained that a "split vote" was called on to delete the sentence -- "which called for a ban on all forms of pornography in the media" -- but in spite of this, the 1997 resolution remains referenced, and therefore the call to ban "all forms of pornography in the media" remains intact.

Falkvinge said that striking out this text "has no other effect than deliberately obscuring the purpose of the new report."

But to make matters worse, when a handful of MEPs called on their citizens to e-mail their representatives in protest, the parliament's own IT department  began to block these e-mails  en masse from arriving in politicians' inboxes.

Pirate Party member Christian Engström, who first brought the news to light, called the move an "absolute disgrace", and said that he would complain to the Parliament's president about this "totally undemocratic practice."

This follows a similar move by the Parliament following an EU-wide citizen uproar over the antipiracy trade agreement, ACTA -- the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement -- in which comparable efforts by citizens saw their e-mails caught in the network's spam filter.

ACTA eventually crumbled after a mostly negative vote by the Parliament, signaling a rejection of the transatlantic agreement.

 

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