The European Parliament is accused of filtering out emails protesting on a possible EU pornography ban destined for MEPs.
A storm has erupted in Brussels after it was revealed that a previously uncontroversial report features a clause which seeks a "ban on all forms of pornography in the media."
The report, Eliminating Gender Stereotypes in the EU, is due to come before the European Parliament on 12 March. Before the row erupted it was expected to pass without a problem.
Rick Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate party which campaigns for internet freedoms, accused unnamed MEPs of forcing the IT department in the European Parliament to filter out emails protesting against this report which were sent to fellow MEPs.
Falkvinge was the person who initially stoked the debate about the clause in MEP Kartika Liotard's report by highlighting point 17 which calls for the carpet ban on pornography.
In his original blog he called on people to protest against the report by emailing members of the European Parliament. He set up an email alias which resolved to every one of the 750 MEPs, meaning those who wanted to voice their anger at the report could do so by sending a single email.
Today however, Falkvinge says: "The European Parliament's IT group started classifying mail from its constituents as spam, on the server side, so the Members of European Parliament never saw the protests."
The email filtering system is reportedly classifying any emails with the words "ban on online pornography" in the title as spam, meaning MEPs are not seeing the protest emails.
Falkvinge goes on to say he believes this was done following requests from individual MEPs, though it fails to identify them.
Christian Engström a Pirate Party MEP has also accused the European Parliament's IT department of blocking the emails:
"This is an absolute disgrace, in my opinion. A parliament that views input from citizens on a current issue as spam, has very little democratic legitimacy in my opinion," Engström said on his blog.
IBTimes UK contacted the European Parliament and Kartika Liotard for comment on the matter but at the time of publication had not received a response from either.
Should the report pass a vote next Tuesday, it does not mean that any new legislation will be automatically implemented. These so-called "initiative reports" are used to indicate to the lawmakers just what the member of the European Parliament would like to see become law.
Kartika Liotard, a Dutch left-wing feminist MEP who is the rapporteur for this report, is seeking "statutory measures to prevent any form of pornography in the media and in advertising and for a ban on advertising for pornographic products and sex tourism," including measures in the "digital field".
The crux of the problem seems to be that the language used within the report is very broad and vague in scope, meaning it could be read any number of ways. The Pirate Party believes the legislation as worded at the moment could bring about a ban on all forms of erotic communication, including private messages sent between consenting adults.
"This is a political invasion of people's bedrooms that is unacceptable and intolerable."
The word "media" is used but is not defined anywhere within the report though it is likely not to cover just commercial media, as elsewhere in the report it talks about actions "in the digital field" and "on the internet...to which all operators will be invited to adhere."