The Increasing Threat of Government Internet Intervention
While all of us recognize that attacking the adult industry over child pornography (CP) has always been an easy vote grabber for politicians, a worrying trend is now emerging, as what was once regarded as simple sabre-rattling is now starting to gather momentum in the public arena, and beginning to pose a real threat to the freedom of the Internet in general — and to the adult entertainment sector in particular.
Whether it be the Icelandic government seeking to impose a total ban on online pornography; the German government unilaterally deciding which websites provide suitable viewing; or the current U.K. government initiative to impose “opt-in” and greater security measures to stop minors from accessing content intended for an 18+ audience, our industry now faces a major threat and needs more than ever to have its voice heard.
The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) has long been involved in the battle against child pornography and is recognized by government bodies and law enforcement agencies, not only as an invaluable ally in the battle against CP, but also as a respected representative and voice of the Industry. As more and more political pressure is brought to bear on the industry, ASACP provides a vital communication route to not only put across what the industry itself is doing to battle CP but to lobby against greater government control while advocating greater parental responsibility.
ASACP has largely concentrated its efforts within the U.S. arena since its inception in 1996, but due to its growth within the European adult industry, ASACP recently appointed Vince Charlton as its Director of European Outreach, to work more closely with EU adult providers and to actively lobby government bodies on behalf of the adult industry.
In his first interview since taking up this new position, Charlton talked frankly on how he sees his role and the challenges facing the Industry.
How do you feel about the issue of government censorship of the internet?
I firmly believe in maintaining the freedom of information that the Internet provides, and any moves to ban access to online porn or enforce government filtering are the first steps in eroding freedom of choice for the individual. Saying that, it is obvious that the industry itself needs to wake up to the issues it now faces and make itself more aware of the consequences if it is not seen to be working hard to put its own houses in order and be more pro-active in restricting access to minors. We have already seen in the U.K. the fines levied by ATVOD against Playboy and Strictly Broadband and I believe this is just the start. The reality is that providing a simple checkbox asking someone to confirm they are over 18 is not a defence and we can no longer afford to just pay lip service to age verification services. However I do feel that ultimately it is the responsibility of parents and not the government to monitor what children watch and this is where the focus needs to be shifted.
The u.K. government is pushing for an opt-in to adult content. What are your views on this?
We all want to restrict our children from accessing harmful or inappropriate content, however the notion that a government would instruct ISP’s to ban adult content by default and the user would have to ‘opt-in’ to view this content is simply unworkable in my opinion. Where does the censorship stop? Who decides what sites are inappropriate? Does the user want a record on file of them opting in to watch pornography? I can understand the thought process behind the move, but in my opinion there are other more effective ways of addressing this problem without turning the Internet into Disneyland and pushing porn underground where it would be virtually impossible to control. Again I come back to my point that it is ultimately up to the parents and not the government to control children and there are plenty of filtering services available for responsible parents to use.
Do you feel there is a degree of complacency within the adult industry regarding these threats?
I think it is true to a certain extent that the industry can be reactive and not proactive and it is part of my role to create better lines of communication to further engage the industry in these issues. Although there is a great deal of support for the role ASACP plays and we have on board quality members of the industry as sponsors and board members, the reality is that we recently ran a seminar at the European Summit in Barcelona, which apparently had more than 500 representatives from the adult industry in attendance — and a grand total of four people attended our talk. Whether this can be called complacency or pure apathy I’m not sure, but I know there is a lot more work to do in increasing awareness of ASACP and its value and relevance in the current climate.
What are your personal objectives for 2013?
Very simply, to make it loud and clear in the public domain that the adult industry takes the issue of CP seriously; that we are capable of putting our own house in order without outside interference; and to create greater awareness of ASACP and its role within the European adult business community.
Remember that at times we are faced with right wing organizations that would like nothing more than to see this industry wiped from the face of the earth, therefore it is vital that the adult industry has a voice to counter these extremist’s arguments, so as part of this effort, I will attend numerous conferences and meetings with government representatives during the year, to ensure that our message is heard.
Do you have any last thoughts on the industry’s role in protecting itself by protecting children?
It is clear that the adult industry is facing extreme external pressure on both CP and the ease in which minors can access online content and we all have a decision to make — either lobby decision makers and try to influence policy before it happens, or simply wait for external regulation to come and hit us in the back of the head with a sledge-hammer, so that we can all face the consequences of a more heavily regulated Internet — it really is as simple as that. ASACP has a vital role to play in both promoting and protecting the adult industry, but to carry out this role effectively it needs the continuing support of the industry itself.
For Europeans seeking further information regarding ASACP, sponsorship opportunities and how your business can help in the fight against European government legislation, contact Vince Charlton, Director of European Outreach, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the ASACP website at www.asacp.org.