22nd Feb 2020

Pirate Party tackles ultimate taboo of child pornography

  • Pirate party rally in Brussels (Photo: Didier Misson)

The libertarian Pirate Party in Sweden has set off a storm of controversy by arguing that the country's current laws on child pornography should be done away with.

In an interview with Swedish Radio out on Thursday (5 August) Pirate Party leader Rick Falkvinge described a 1999 child pornography law as "a battering-ram against the open society." The radio spot and an accompanying article noted how a policy plank in the party's election manifesto, published last week, would "make it legal to hold the image, text and sound with child pornography" on a computer.

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Mr Falkvinge's remarks infuriated many of the party's own supporters just weeks ahead of Sweden's general election and drew a rebuke from Anders Ahlqvist, the deputy head of Sweden's cybercrime department.

"The fact is that possession [of images] comes mainly in connection with suspicion of other crimes, especially the spread of child pornography ... There are a large number of judgments where people have been convicted of child pornography with the help of this law," he told the radio station.

Speaking to EUobserver by phone from Stockholm, the party's communications manager and parliamentary candidate for southern Sweden, Jonatan Kindh, said the public radio broadcaster "ambushed" his camp.

"The big story on Swedish Radio, that said we are positive to child pornography, that is really not the case," he said. "We want to make it clear that the Pirate Party does not have a positive stance on child pornography, but rather we are opposed to Swedish laws that say that almost anything, pictures, sound, drawn images, anything at all depicting someone under the age of 18 can be called a sexual image."

"What we want is not an end to all child pornography laws but a return to their previous form, which existed before 1999, in which it defined it as images of prepubescent children," he said. "Swedish child pornography laws since then are more like something like a yoke the police can apply to this or any case. It shows well how the child pornography law can be used on anyone."

"The law could also cover a 17-year-old taking a nude picture of himself, keeping the picture until he's 19 and then he is suddenly in possession of child pornography. It's the 18 cut-off that is the main problem."

Mr Kindh gave the example of how a Swedish comic books translator, who specialised in translating Japanese manga, was last week arrested under the law: "From a collection of around 1,000 comics, the police found 51 images that they misread as child pornography."

The party does want all child pornography laws lifted in relation to any fictional content.

"The law is also applicable to fiction and art. We are opposed to any law banning fictional images, recordings or writing. Child pornography laws should only be applicable to images of real children, where a real person has been involved," Mr Kindh explained.

"No one is hurt when you draw a picture."

Pressed over whether possession of files of child pornography, fictional or otherwise still endanger real children by encouraging the development of an illicit market for the product, he said: "There is a risk of the production of such a market, but the big problem is how the law is used. We should go back to older laws, laws that actually help, instead of used by the police to target who they want to target."

The party, largely associated with its pro-internet-file-sharing stance, started out as a fringe movement but has grown in stature to become Sweden's second largest party by membership, with two MEPs allied to the Greens in the European Parliament, and offshoots in 14 EU countries.

Some analysts had pegged them as potential kingmakers between the main left and right parties, which stand neck-and-neck in the polls.

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