Should I start asking people walking down a street if they agree with the importance of the freedom of speech I bet most of them would nod vehemently. But what if I asked if it’s OK to draw profane cartoons about Islam? Or Christianity? Or cartoons in which the Simpsons kids are having sex?
Now we know what the law thinks, least in Australia:
Cartoon characters are people too, a judge has ruled in the case of a man convicted over cartoons based on The Simpsons, in which children are shown having sex.
Now this one raises a plethora of questions. Does it mean cartoon characters have human rights as well? What constitutes as a cartoon character? If an Australian kid scribbles an obscene cartoon on the side of his math book in class using stick figures can he be prosecuted? And why is pornography special when in almost any cartoon the characters break the law in many ways?
Neil sums up smartly at the beginning of his quite lengthy post regarding the topic:
If you accept — and I do — that freedom of speech is important, then you are going to have to defend the indefensible. That means you are going to be defending the right of people to read, or to write, or to say, what you don’t say or like or want said.
Just another example I stumbled upon is the joint decision of UK internet providers to collectively block a wikipedia page for allegedly dangerous imagery:
The blocked page of the online encyclopaedia shows an album cover of German heavy metal band Scorpions, released in 1976. Internet providers acted after online watchdog the Internet Watch Foundation warned them its picture may be illegal. The IWF said it was a “potentially illegal child sexual abuse image”.
The album cover belongs to Virgin Killer featuring a naked prepubescent girl. The decision stirred up so much controversy the wiki page was even locked up for a while preventing edit warring.
I tend to think looking at that album cover or the comic with the Simpsons can’t turn anyone into a pedophiliac. And I believe it’s absurd that something drawn, i.e. not real, can be grounds for child porn prosecution.