However, another, by Tim Jones, a psychologist at Worcester University, concluded: “The Internet is fueling more extreme fantasies and the danger is that they could be played out in real life.”
There is evidence of a massive rise in Internet porn addictions and in the type of porn available becoming more hardcore. Women are reporting more relationship problems caused by their partners’ porn habits and the amount of child porn is escalating.
Iceland’s move has been welcomed by Gail Dines, a professor of sociology at Wheelock College in Boston and the author of Pornland: How Porn has Hijacked Our Sexuality.
“Of course Internet porn is damaging,” she said. “We have years of empirical evidence. It’s like global warming, you will always find some global warming deniers out there who can quote some little piece of research they have found somewhere, some science junk, but the consensus is there.”
“We are not saying you see porn and go out and rape, but we are saying it shifts the way people think about sexual relationships, about intimacy, about women,” Dines said.
“A lot of people really don’t realize what porn looks like online. If a 12-year-old searches for porn in Google, he doesn’t get some Playboy pictures, he gets graphic brutal hardcore images of women being choked with tears running down their faces and of the kind of anal sex that has female porn stars in America suffering from anal prolapses,” she said.
“Children are traumatized by what they see. You develop your sexual template around puberty and if you see brutal porn on an industrialized scale then can anyone really suggest that exposure has no effect? Because, if so, then we will have to totally rethink an awful lot of branches of science and psychology,” she said.
Prostur Jonasson of Iceland’s Association of Digital Freedom has branded Jonasson’s proposals as unfeasible, saying that ensuring Internet service providers block pornography would require content to go through a filter, meaning that someone will have the role of deciding what is OK and what is not.
However, Jonasson and his supporters reject claims that restricting access is censorship, and part of the consultation is establishing a legal definition for the pornographic material to be blocked.
“It’s a myth that there is no proper definition for what is porn, 70 percent of European countries do have one in law,” Gunnarsdottir said.
Jonasson has said that the issue must be debated.
“If we cannot discuss a ban on violent pornography, which we all agree has very harmful effects on young people and can have a clear link to incidences of violent crime, then that is not good,” he said.
Other countries will be watching the Icelandic model carefully. There is international concern about the availability and increasing hardcore nature of Internet porn. Many big companies now use Web filters that successfully restrict access to some sites by their employees.
In 2007, the British-based Internet Watch Foundation reported that child pornography on the Internet is becoming more brutal and graphic, and the number of images depicting violent abuse had risen fourfold since 2003 to about 20 percent of all porn content. About 91 percent appear to be children aged under 12. At present attempts to track down and prosecute offenders is a difficult task when multiple international servers are used.