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Iceland porn ban: Can a wired country go porn-free?

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That idea has Internet-freedom advocates alarmed.

"This kind of thing does not work. It is technically impossible to do in a way that has the intended effect," said Smari McCarthy of free-speech group the International Modern Media Institute. "And it has negative side effects – everything from slowing down the Internet to blocking content that is not meant to be blocked to just generally opening up a whole can of worms regarding human rights issues, access to information, and freedom of expression."

Despite its often chaotic appearance, the Internet is not a wholly lawless place. It is regulated, to varying degrees, around the world. Police monitor the net for child pornography and other illegal material, and service providers in many countries block offending sites.

Some governments also censor the Internet at a national level – though the likes of authoritarian Iran, North Korea, and China are not countries liberal Iceland wants to emulate.

European countries including Britain, Sweden, and Denmark ask Internet service providers to block child pornography websites, measures that have met with only limited opposition.

But broader filtering has mostly been resisted. A few years ago, Australia announced it would introduce an Internet filtering system to block websites containing material including child pornography, bestiality, sexual violence, and terrorist content. After an outcry, the government abandoned the plan last year.

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