FCC Commissioner Mocks Russia, Saudi Arabia for Laws against Gay Propaganda

September 13, 2013 - 3:01 PM

Ajit Pai

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai spoke at “The Future of Broadband, Security and Privacy for LGBT Communities” event on Thursday in Washington, D.C. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Ajit Pai mocked the laws in Russia and the Middle East that prohibit gay propaganda.

In his keynote speech at “The Future of Broadband, Security and Privacy for LGBT Communities” event on Thursday in Washington, D.C., Pai said the “crackdown” on homosexuals could lead to Internet censorship.

“I'm only half-joking when I say that I wonder whether Ivi – Russia's counterpart to Netflix – will soon be removing ‘Brokeback Mountain’ from its Internet streaming service or whether Russian children will be denied access to ‘Teletubbies’ videos online,” Pai said.

“Brokeback Mountain” is a 2005 film about a homosexual relationship between two cowboys in the American West in the 1960s. “Teletubbies” is a British television show for pre-schoolers that ran from 1997 to 2001. One of the Teletubbies, the purse-carrying Tinky Winky, become an icon for the gay movement after the late evangelist Jerry Falwell said the character was promoting the homosexual lifestyle to children.

Pai said Internet freedom is threatened by some entities that want to control it, including the United Nations and countries like Russia and Saudi Arabia and that the threats could particularly hurt the gay movement around the globe.

“The bottom line is control: Control of the networks that transmit online communications, and ultimately control of the people who use the Internet,” Pai said. “And which countries, you might be wondering, are leading the charge for this kind of Internet regulation?

“Chief among them are Russia, Iran, and many Arab states,” Pai said. “These governments are no friends of Internet freedom.”

Pai said letting international bodies or foreign governments influence control of the Internet would be a “catastrophic mistake.”

“Indeed, if you want to find out what they would do in terms of international regulation, take a look at how they regulate the Internet at home,” Pai said. “What that examination reveals isn't pretty, especially for LGBT individuals.

“Consider Russia,” Pai said. “If you've watched the news recently, you know about Russia's official crackdown on its LGBT population: the banning of gay pride rallies, the beatings of gay-rights protesters, and, of course, the legislation outlawing what the government has called ‘propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.’”

“What few have appreciated about the last item is how this legislation applies to the Internet,” Pai said. “Speech on the Internet is now illegal in Russia if it can be accessed by minors and: (1) is aimed at creating ‘nontraditional sexual attitudes’ (2) makes ‘nontraditional sexual relations’ attractive (3) equates the social value of traditional and ‘nontraditional sexual relations’ or (4) creates an interest in ‘nontraditional sexual relations.’

“People who violate this law face heavy fines, and organizations engaging in such speech can even be shut down for up to 90 days,” Pai said. “I'm only half-joking when I say that I wonder whether Ivi - Russia's counterpart to Netflix – will soon be removing ‘Brokeback Mountain’ from its Internet streaming service. Or whether Russian children will be denied access to ‘Teletubbies’ videos online.

Pai also mocked Saudi Arabia’s “so-called” Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

“The mutaween who enforce the Committee's edicts can dispense fines, prison terms, and even lashings by whip for conduct contrary to Sharia law, including same-sex relations,” Pai said.

“More recently, Saudi Arabia has implemented a pervasive Internet censorship regime managed by its Internet Services Unit (or ISU). The ISU blocks Saudis from accessing numerous websites of which the government disapproves. This includes most gay-themed sites, including those of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the Gay and Lesbian Arab Society.

"Other Middle Eastern countries, such as Bahrain, Iran, Oman, Qatar, and Yemen, also use filtering software and other means to block citizens from accessing LGBT websites,” Pai said.