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Posted by on Jul 22, 2013 in Culture, In the news, Law, Politics | 11 comments

Now the UK wants a clean feed policy

We went through this in Australia recently – a dangerous policy that involves censorship of internet pornography unless you take positive steps to opt out. It might sound good when you say it quickly. After all, no one wants child pornography on the internet, right? And some kinds of pornography, even apart from child pornography, may be pretty horrible and lead to nasty social consequences, right? The example often given is pornography that somehow fetishizes or glorifies rape.

Now, my position has long been that that I don’t rule out narrowly drafted laws that might attempt to stop some kinds of porn, provided that evidence can be adduced of an urgent need to do this to prevent serious, ordinary harms. The harm doesn’t have to be strictly direct, but there should at least be a solid evidence-based case about both proximity and urgency… but putting this case together has so far eluded anti-porn crusaders: the likes of Gail Dines, Melinda Tankard-Reist, etc. So, despite my general advocacy of free speech, I am not adamantly against all censorship of pornography outside the scope of child pornography. For better or worse, some so-called “extreme pornography” is already banned in the UK.

But so often, what we see is not well-evidenced argument but merely moral panic. And the solutions proposed are often dangerous. Here’s a set of my old posts (from the old site) about the dangers of clean feed laws, from when this was a hot issue in Australia. And here is a pointed set of questions by Paul Bernal covering some of the same territory.