Categories
Hell in a handcart

Scotland’s new anti-porn legislation. Here we go again

The Scotsman speaks to Kenny MacAskill, the man behind Scotland’s “even tougher than England’s” forthcoming anti-porn legislation.

“We are now in an age dominated by DVDs and the internet. We need to update the law in this global age. England already has some of these laws – but our laws will go further. Our laws will be covering matters such as images of rape.”

Leaving aside the argument as to whether seeing a picture should ever be illegal, and skipping past the rather alarming (and faintly amusing) prospect of Porn Police checking laptops when English businessmen cross the border, let’s look at the few details we know.

Mr MacAskill said people who mistakenly access extreme pornography, for example by clicking on the wrong computer button, would not be pursued. Equally, it is likely that convictions under the new law will require people actually to download images of “extreme” pornography, rather than by viewing websites alone.

That line worries me, because unless some techy people have been consulted on this then it’s going to be a mess. If you see an image online, it’s downloaded to your web browser’s cache. If somebody spams you with pornographic emails, the images in those emails are downloaded.

On the other hand, if you deliberately watch a streaming video of illegal pornography, then arguably you aren’t downloading anything at all because the content is delivered as you watch, and isn’t stored in full on your PC – and in recent years the online adult industry has moved to streaming, not downloadable, video, largely because it’s harder to pirate.

Is the law going to address those crucial technical details? Will “viewing on a website” be fine provided people don’t save the files for future reference? What about legitimate content repackaged with different intent? When I was researching a feature about the porn industry a few months ago, covering the rise of streaming media sites, some of them featured content such as the rape scenes from The Accused and Irreversible, two mainstream and perfectly legal films. Is it okay to watch that content when it’s in context, but not when it’s out of context? What about unsolicited content? I reckon much of the spam I get would fall foul of the new law.

This picture depicts violence, and it’s clearly got a sexual subtext. The poor girl looks frightened half to death.

thumb-082026hostel_2_girl_gagging

It is, of course, a promo shot from Hostel 2 – an 18, not R18, movie that’s freely and legally available on DVD.

Here’s what the Scottish Government says:

We propose that this offence will criminalise the possession of pornographic images which realistically depict:

* Life-threatening acts and violence that would appear likely to cause severe injury;
* Rape and other non- consensual penetrative sexual activity, whether violent or otherwise; and
* Bestiality or necrophilia.

The maximum penalty for the proposed new offence will be 3 years imprisonment.

We intend that the new offence will be similar to that at section 63 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which will apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Scottish offence will go further than that offence, however, in that it will cover all images of rape and non-consensual penetrative sexual activity, whereas the English offence only covers violent rape.

In its analysis of the consultation exercise, the Scottish Government admits that there are genuine concerns about that.

[respondents, including broadcasters] found these definitions to be too subjective, unclear and liable to criminalise a much broader range of images than it appears the consultation paper intended.

Such as, say, excerpts or screencaps from Hollywood movies.

This is a stupid example, I know, but it’s a real one: yesterday, a wag on Fark.com posted a faked image showing Barack Obama being bummed by Hillary Clinton. I don’t know if it was consensual or not. What do you think? Would Obama say “yes we can”? Because if the answer is no, then we’ve got ourselves some dangerous imagery right there.

“As technology and 3D rendering techniques become more sophisticated and realistic it is possible to render the scenes you wish to ban in which there is no human participation at all.”

That’s a good point. Is Poser porn illegal? Photoshop jobs? Should they be?

And:

78.    Channel 4 (235), The British Computer Society (285), The Campaign Against Censorship (217) and others felt that if realistic depictions were to be included, the reach of the legislation would inevitably be much further than the consultation document intended, possibly including works of art and historical artefacts.

79.    The BBFC in particular thought this would create an issue for them, as “realistic depictions of serious violence are a very common feature of modern, mainstream films and videos, and many such depictions will have a sexual context.” (BBFC194)

Despite all that, it seems that justice minister Kenny MacAskill wants to carry on regardless. Nevermind talking to the press about the evils of porn – how about actually publishing details of the legislation so we can see whether it’s going to work?

7 replies on “Scotland’s new anti-porn legislation. Here we go again”

There’s some (I assume) unintentional comedy in the consultation document, btw:

“some people made the point that acts of bestiality were less harmful than killing an animal for food or fur.”

I can’t imagine that one impressing a jury.

If someone was to film someone rubbing themselves on a side of beef – would that cover both necrophilia and bestiality?

I have been campaigning against extreme porn for some time.

The FBI estimate that over 4,000 young people in the USA alone, are held at anyone time, in cellers, attics etc, for the use of sexual abuse. It is a lot of people.

Apart from showing desperately disturbing images which can make rape and abduction appear more normal; the internet is a world wide phenomena.

It can allow people who view sex in a disturbed way and who would normally live in isolation meet others of their type and in so doing expand their way of life.

In my opinion to prevent the pollution of society by this media we do not want to prosecute those who use it; that will not prevent it.

What we need to do is to prosecute the web providers with massive fines for allowing people to make websites. If this is done proper policing will take place and the source will dry up.

OK, and then those making the sites will encrypt or otherwise protect all the images and host them in jurisdictions that don’t care about your laws. You will have achieved nothing whatsoever. Then what?

That’s a fair point, but the situation as it stands just now is that most of the really bad porn isn’t encrypted and isn’t stored on servers beyond the reach of the law: most of it comes from the US. What doesn’t come from the US tends to come from russian domains and, to a lesser extent, eastern european domains.

I don’t believe for one second that it’s possible to eradicate truly nasty material from the internet altogether, and the closer you come to achieving it the more you’ll encourage underground swapping. But at the moment it’s exceptionally easy to access the really bad stuff, and even the IWF system (basically UK ISPs get a list of sites to block and throw up 404 errors if you try to access sites on the list) isn’t doing much.

That said, pre-IWF there was a lot of illegal porn hosted on UK servers. Now, it’s a fraction of one percent. So that suggests that it is possible to get rid of a lot of it; if we worked on cross-border enforcement against publishers I don’t doubt we could get rid of a huge amount of it. As the cliche goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. We already have the way; what we need now – internationally speaking – is the will.

Porn isn’t the problem.
Modern society and government suppression of human nature is what created most porn.

Leave a Reply