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Ban Internet porn? Iceland considers censoring XXX content

Iceland is considering censoring online porn.

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Just how harmful is pornography?

According to some Icelandic politicians, its effects on women and children are potentially dangerous enough to warrant proposing a ban on Internet porn.

As the Telegraph reports, the government's introduction of online filters used to block Icelanders from accessing pornographic sites would mimic China's restrictions on its citizens' Internet use, and would make Iceland the first Western democracy to impose online censorship.

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Iceland already has an existing law that prohibits the printing and distribution of pornography. The Telegraph says the proposal to broaden that ban to include Internet porn is expected to become law this year.

"We have to be able to discuss a ban on violent pornography, which we all agree has a very harmful effects [sic] on young people and can have a clear link to incidents of violent crime," Iceland's interior minister, Ogmundur Jonasson, told the newspaper.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, the interior minister's political adviser, Halla Gunnarsdottir, explained there is a strong consensus in favour of the proposal.

"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," she said. "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."

But is pornography really such a threat?

While some researchers (and yes, young men too) find that pornography has become increasingly violent and alters users' attitudes toward sex and women, other research suggests pornography is relatively benign.

A 2010 study compared sex-related crime rates before and after the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia) lifted its strict prohibition against porn as it transitioned to democracy after 1989. The researchers found no increase in reported sex-related crimes, and an actual decrease in reported cases of child sex abuse, after the ban was lifted.

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A 2009 study from the University of Montreal examined the influence of pornography on a small group of heterosexual men whose sex practices were considered conventional, and found the participants' use of porn affected neither their support of gender equality, nor their real-life sexual experiences.

"Aggressors don't need pornography to be violent," the study's researcher Simon Louis Lajeunesse said in a press release. "If pornography had the impact that many claim it has, you would just have to show heterosexual films to a homosexual to change his sexual orientation."

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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