Pornography, Censorship and the Internet

LAW AND THE INTERNET, L. Edwards & C. Waelde, eds., Hart Publishing, 2009

59 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2009 Last revised: 23 Dec 2013

See all articles by Lilian Edwards

Lilian Edwards

University of Newcastle - Law School

Date Written: July 16, 2009


Over a decade since the Internet became an acknowledged mainstream commercial medium, it still retains its less than savoury reputation as a happy hunting ground for pornography and other types of distasteful content.

Some of the basic issues in this area which this chapter addresses, from a European and comparative perspective, are:

• Has the Internet created novel problems in this area which can not be adequately regulated by the existing legal and regulatory framework?

• Can such laws be enforced successfully in the environment of the Internet and if not, what steps should be taken?

• Should control of content be undertaken only by state law enforcement agencies and courts, or by private bodies such as ISPs and search engines?

• Should states and private institutions seek to control access to prohibited or unwelcome Internet content and by technological (“code”) means such as filtering, rather than by legal means? What are the implications for free speech of such online filtering?

The chapter observes a dangerous international trend towards non transparent and non accountable censorship online, not only in non democratic countries like China but increasingly in Europe and elsewhere. The author proposes a speech impact assessment process be put in place before new systems of top-down state-endorsed Intenet filtering are implemented.

Keywords: Internet filtering, censorship, ISPs , speech impact assessment, IWF, child pornography, illegal content, Europe, UK, law

JEL Classification: K49, K00

Suggested Citation

Edwards, Lilian, Pornography, Censorship and the Internet (July 16, 2009). LAW AND THE INTERNET, L. Edwards & C. Waelde, eds., Hart Publishing, 2009, Available at SSRN: or

Lilian Edwards (Contact Author)

University of Newcastle - Law School ( email )

Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU
United Kingdom

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