EU lays groundwork for continent-wide ban on pornography

A man gets a shoeshine under a poster advertising a pornography website outside the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo January 9, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Robyn Beck

The European Parliament is preparing for a vote on Tuesday that could begin measures to effectively ban pornography in all forms of media, forcing the bloc of 27 countries to shut down booming industries for porn and sex tourism.

The legislation that could force the ban is the innocuous-sounding, 2012 "resolution on eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU." Buried within the resolution's text, however, is a provision that would herald an extreme change: the end of pornography across the entire continent.

“[The European Parliament] 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,” Article 17 reads. 

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While the meaning of "the media" within the resolution is vague, a previous article stipulates that the internet would be included in the ban. 

“[The European Parliament] 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,” says Article 14.

The measure was introduced by Dutch MP Kartika Liotard as part of an initiative to bring about greater gender equality in Europe.

Tuesday’s vote would not immediately ban pornography outright. Unlike national parliaments, the European Parliament cannot draft legislation on its own. Should the European Parliament state its support for the proposal on Tuesday, the European Commission could then decide whether or not to create legislation, taking Parliament’s opinion into account.

But the internet did not stand idly by as the web’s favorite pastime fell under threat; opponents were quickly to voice their disagreement. But one member of European Parliament is alleging that the upper house of the body's own IT division is censoring emails from outraged Europeans. 

Christian Engström, of Sweden’s Pirate Party, said that he received a flurry of emails Thursday morning — but shortly after noon, they stopped coming in.

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“When we started investigating why this happened so suddenly, we soon found out: The IT department of the European Parliament is blocking the delivery of the emails on this issue, after some members of the parliament complained about getting emails from citizens,” wrote Engström.

Engström called the alleged censorship an “absolute disgrace” to democratic legitimacy. He urged citizens to continue emailing their representatives to protest of the measure. 

But the internet didn’t require the orders of an MP to stand up for porn.

Using a #PornBan hashtag on twitter, netizens were protesting the measure unabated.

“Maybe it's time to flash some tits in a Brussel protest. #pornblock #pornban #mepblock,” said Twitter user @kaatje36, joining the digital chorus against the ban. 

“Fascist EU to vote on porn ban, calls for Internet enforcement,” tweeted @ivarvb, keeping with the internet’s tradition of quickly comparing anything deemed negative to a resurgence in National Socialism. 

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Should the European Parliament uphold the ban on Tuesday — and the European Commission endorse the legislation — it would then be returned to parliament for a vote to make it legally binding. 

For now, at least the internet can take a break from downloading petabytes of porn for posterity’s sake.