– Next Tuesday, the European Parliament Votes To Ban All Your Porn. Yes, Really. Take Immediate Action (Falkvinge on Infopolicy March 6, 2013):
Next Tuesday, the European Parliament will vote yes to a report calling for a legislative ban on all pornography in “media”. This “media” is worded to include the internet, and is broad and vague enough to even include photos you take of yourself and send to friends, as well as simple text messaging. This horrendous attack on our fundamental freedoms of speech and expression needs action now.
The deceptively-named report is titled Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU, which sounds good and something you’d give your approval on first glance, right? We’ve seen this kind of deception before, with bills named things like “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA), “Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement” (ACTA), and the “Patriot Act”, that were all named to trigger a “yes” vote, but which were really about tearing down the most fundamental of our rights and liberties.
The current state of affairs in the European Parliament is a clear majority in favor of this report, much because of its title and a belief that there’s nothing odd about it.
Next week’s vote, which will probably be on Tuesday, isn’t really on legislation as such – rather, it is about requesting legislation to be drafted on the matter, and final legislation will come back to a vote. Thus, this isn’t the final vote in the legislative process; rather, it’s the first vote in the legislative sausage machine (“what goes in, must come out”). This is a so-called initiative report. Still, it is important to send a very clear message that this is unacceptable at first opportunity, or it will become a legislative proposal which is much harder to fight.
As part of this report, we find a call to enforce a carpet ban on pornography, across “the media”. This is a hair-raising attack on freedom of speech and freedom of expression that should never have made it past the first cursory review (my highlighting):
17. Calls on the EU and its Member States to take concrete action on its resolution of 16 September 1997 on discrimination against women in advertising, which called for a ban on all forms of pornography in the media and on the advertising of sex tourism;
This refers to an earlier decision, which is just as horrendous and that neither can nor should be enforced:
Freedoms of speech and expression most definitely include sending erotic material – text, images, sound – between consenting adults. This is a political invasion of people’s bedrooms that is unacceptable and intolerable.
But “the media” is kind of vague in point 17 above – could it be referring only to commercial, for-profit media? Not really. If we look closer, we see that the Internet is most definitely included – and also that the European Parliament is trying to abdicate political responsibility for this decision, by pushing responsibility onto Internet Service Providers for policing the morals of a total carpet ban on anything remotely pornographic (my highlighting):
14. Points out that a policy to eliminate stereotypes in the media will of necessity involve action in the digital field; considers that this requires the launching of initiatives coordinated at EU level with a view to developing a genuine culture of equality on the internet; calls on the Commission to draw up in partnership with the parties concerned a charter to which all internet operators will be invited to adhere
So yes, the European Parliament is really voting to create a ban using language that is broad and vague enough in scope to include sexual communication between consenting adults over the internet, and using unaccountable Internet Service Providers to do their policing for them. This is as unacceptable as it gets, but make no mistake – the Members of European Parliament are going to vote yes to this report come Tuesday, unless they hear from us very loudly and clearly. In other words, it is therefore time to mail the European Parliament with our opinions.
You may remember how we did that in the anti-ACTA campaign. I have set up a mail alias that resolves to every Member of European Parliament (all some 750 of them); the mail alias is firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail them right now, regardless of whether you are an EU citizen or not. Write a mail with just whatever you feel about this issue from a personal standpoint, maybe picking inspiration from one of these sample letters, mixing and matching them, or rolling your own entirely:
UPDATE: Since lunchtime Thursday, the European Parliament is classifying citizens and voters in their constituency as spam (!!) so you’ll need to put the mail alias on the BCC line, as below. You may have to enable it under “View => BCC” in your mail client.
To: Dear MEPs <make up an address>
Subject: Please REJECT the report “Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU”.
Next week, the European Parliament will vote on an initiative report called “Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU”. While this report may look beneficial and uncontroversial on the surface, it includes provisions to ban all kinds of pornographic material, across “the media”.
We can also read in the report that “the media” includes the Internet, and that Internet Service Providers are encouraged to do this policing in an unaccountable manner.
This is an unacceptable political invasion of people’s bedrooms. Fundamental freedoms of speech and expression most definitely include the ability to send erotic material between consenting adults in any manner they so choose and wish.
While there may be good parts in the report, as a whole, this report is not compatible with fundamental rights and freedoms in a democratic society. I therefore urge you to reject it.
To: Dear MEPs <make up an address>
Subject: Next week’s report on “eliminating gender stereotypes” must be rejected.
There is a report on “eliminating gender stereotypes” coming to a vote next week. This is a deceptive title; the report hides legislative language that is not compatible with fundamental rights and freedoms in a democratic society.
The report seeks an enforcement of a ban on every form of pornography, across a definition of media that includes the internet (points 14 and 17). Further, it calls on Internet Service Providers to enforce this ban, outside of legislative accountability.
This is a political invasion of adult people’s bedrooms that is neither acceptable nor tolerable. Politicians have no say in what consenting adults communicate between one another, and yet, this report seeks to impose an extrajudicial censorship of such communication in the most unaccountable of ways. I find this despicable and a completely unacceptable attack on the most basic of freedoms of speech and expression.
Therefore, I urge you to decisively REJECT this report, and also to tell your colleagues of its deceptive title compared to its actual contents.
To: Dear MEPs <make up an address>
Subject: Next week’s report “Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU” is deceptive. Please reject it.
There is an initiative report coming to a vote next week titled “Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU”. This title is deceptive and hides an unacceptable attack on fundamental rights and freedoms – one that is not compatible with a democratic society.
Looking at points 14 and 17 in the report, it calls for a complete ban on all forms of pornography in media, and makes it clear that this includes anything on the Internet. In other words, it applies to any kind of erotic material – text, images, sound – and not just the commercial kind. This is a political invasion of adult people’s bedrooms – adult VOTERS’ bedrooms – that goes far beyond the tolerable. If consenting adults choose to share erotic material with one another, this is not a matter that politicians have any kind of say about.
While there may be good parts in the report, as a whole, this report is not compatible with fundamental rights and freedoms in a democratic society. I therefore
urge you to reject it and to inform your colleagues of this attempted deception.