Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Protect children - but not like this

Sweden, it's proposed, should have a law that bans looking at child pornography - ostensibly because if no one can look at it no one is going to make it.  (It is of course already illegal to make and spread child pornography).

Is that a good idea?  A number of bloggers have already come out to say that it's not - including PP stalwarts Rick Falkvinge & Anna Troberg who go further and say it should be a political issue for Piratpartiet.

So is it a good idea? And does it fall into the scope of pirate politics?

OK - Is it likely to be effective?  Consider that Sweden's population is a fraction of a percent of the global population - and that child pornography is an international problem.  That means unless Swedes are prolific consumer's of child porn it's unlikely to have a noticeable impact on the supply side.  Unless this legislation impacts on the creation of child pornography it is ineffective in improving life for those caught up as children in it's production. It seems that it will fail in it's primary objective.

Then there is the philosophical question - how does someone know you have looked at something pornographic if they haven't looked at it.  And if they have seen it haven't they themselves committed a crime?

..which leads to the practical problem of how do I avoid committing this crime if I have no way of knowing what is in an image - or on a web page - before I've seen it. 

..and what constitutes a pornographic image of a child?   That's undoubtedly defined somewhere for those working in enforcement - but will a layman know?  .. this last is pertinent as the legislation will apply for images of models under 18.  How can you tell from an image how old the person is???  ..before you've even seen the image?

But, practical issues apart - there is a big issue with the scope.  You see there is one group of people that take lots of pictures of semi-clad teenagers -  doing innocent and not so innocent things, and that is teenagers themselves.   Now you might think it unseemly and immodest - but what happens legally between consenting young adults is more than likely going end up on camera sometimes.  Fine - but this law would make it illegal to ever look at those pictures....

And if you think this is improbable you don't need to look further than the USA in March this year where teenage girls were threatened with being convicted of 'sexual abuse of children' for sharing semiclad photos - of themselves....

Fighting child porn is, or should be about working to protect the innocence of the child victims of that industry.  Legislation that would make criminals where there are no victims is bad legislation -  and criminalising teenagers for doing something that their elder peers can do legally is hypocritical, and an injustice.

Add to that the question of enforcement. How do you know who has looked at what?  Legislation is pointless if it's not enforceable.    What kind of surveillance powers are going to be needed to ensure compliance - monitoring everyone's surfing?  Police trojans on every desktop? 

So if we sum up:  Ineffective, disproportionate and with serious risks for our rights to a private life... 
not least for millions of teenagers who deserve the right to grow up unmolested by intrusive legislation.


Anonymous said...

According to the wildly unreliable statistics from the Swedish "blocking" system, comparing with the equally wildly unreliable statistics from the Norwegian "blocking" system - there are nearly twice as many pedophiles in Sweden than in Norway!

Edward E said...

that could have something to do with Sweden having nearly twice as many inhabitants as Norway? (9,3M vs 4,8M)