21 September 2005 – Porn[ography] in the Morning (10:00am – 1:00pm)

The
day started with sun! After two days of feeling like a houseplant, the feeling
of optimism that the bright, yellow and warm gaze of actual sun is not to be
sneered at. Every step felt lighter, every hope grew stronger, everyone looked
friendlier.. it was nice. Then I entered into Palais de Nations, and it feels
like I have never left. =/



At
the morning plenary session, Sub-committee A (a reminder: Sub-comm A looks at
internet governence and meets in the morning, while Sub-comm B looks at
implementation, operations, political chapeau & financing mechanisms and
meets at the afternoon) discussed about the structure for the plenary’s contribution
to the Tunis document. Some discussions were raised about whether the working
definition of internet governance made in the WGIG
report
should be reopened (suggested I think by the US government), how
closely should the discussions on following days follow the WGIG report, the
Compilation of Comments Received on the WGIG Report (doc
DT7
) and so on.



Then Indonesia dropped the ‘pornography’
word. Actually, they brought it up twice. Once at the beginning of the session,
and reiterated their concern again at the end. The delegate stated that he
could not find any specific mention of this word in the WGIG Report, wanted to
discuss this issue of great concern (not only to him, but his government,
country and people) in relation to internet governance. Perhaps under the ambit
of “negative use of the internet”.



Hmm…
I suppose it was only a matter of time before this issue was raised. And I am
surp
rised that silence from other
delegates followed his suggestion. I would have thought that at least one
government delegate would have jumped in and said, “Yes! Us too!” and think of
ways how addressing this concern would input into the shaping of internet
governance principles and mechanisms – for whatever agenda, hidden or apparent.






Why
is it that when it comes to pornography, most people would rather side-steps,
walk around or cross over the issue instead of standing right in the middle of
it to try and peel it apart. Figure out what’s actually happening there, why is
there such a huge demand, and a similarly huge supply, and why is it always
predominantly the same old narratives and images despite new and exciting
technologies? Where on the lines and areas of pornography to take a position,
and how to address it? Friend? Fiend? Acquaintance? Stranger? Don’t care?




The
most vociferous vanguards of pornography – mainly against – are those who have
no fear of using the language of harm or morality. And usually directed towards
someone else. I am slightly nervous how this should pan out. In the context of
information society, the discussion of pornography can very easily veer into
content censorship, and the slice of “freedom of information” and “expression”
can become eaten away to small chunks indeed. I mean, can you imagine a
government delegate going, “Well… it’s not so bad pornography really. The
problem isn’t with pornography per se,
but the kinds of sexualised relations it is propagating. My daughter has a
stash of really progressive erotica and it would be a shame to clump all forms of sexually explicit materials together as
‘negative use’…” Hah!








Well, it remains to be seen if it gets taken up as a
theme for discussion. Meanwhile, the Civil Society Internet Governance &
WSIS Gender Caucus better come up with a clear and strong stand on the issue. So
far, most of the civ soc lists and spaces have focussed more about concerns
that have come up from the Sub-comm B plenary session in the afternoon, where the Chair made a change
in the structure of discussion (forwarding the new document as the basis for
talks on paragraphs 10 & 11 – which incidentally was redrafted without
civil society input) which at the same moment, meant that civil society would
have very little opportunity for intervention. But in the midst of dealing with
this crisis, it would be good that civ soc also spend some time prioritising
another matter which will have significant impact on spaces for the
construction, exchange and possible destabilisation of sexual and gender
relations in the internet. And let’s hope we wont be too wishy washy about it!


jac smk

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