An Industry Under Pressure – A European Perspective

Tim Henning

The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) is issuing a warning to adult website operators that current European initiatives are threatening to dramatically change the regulatory landscape, adding hurdles for businesses that serve consumers throughout the region and beyond.

As has been widely reported, the past few months have seen a huge increase in pressure from the U.K. government towards Internet service providers, search engines and the online adult entertainment industry itself in regards to the proliferation of imagery depicting child abuse and the increased sexualization of younger children on the Internet. These issues gained further momentum as a result of two recent murder cases in the U.K., where substantial amounts of illicit child abuse imagery were discovered on computers owned by the accused, fueling calls from the prime minister’s office for search engines to show greater corporate responsibility in preventing access to illegal material.

ASACP Director of European Outreach Vince Charlton expressed his belief in a BBC interview that it is now only a matter of time before the U.K. mandates major changes in the way consumers view and search for adult content on the Internet.

After attending the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) European Summit in Dublin and the Westminster eForum in London, ASACP Director of European Outreach Vince Charlton took part in an interview broadcast on the U.K.’s national BBC radio. During this interview, Charlton expressed his belief that it is now only a matter of time before the U.K. mandates major changes in the way consumers view and search for adult content on the Internet.

These initiatives will bring new challenges to those members of the adult industry that are dependent on income from U.K. customers — although this may only be the tip of the iceberg as the European Union is also gearing itself up to take a much stricter view on these issues.

As such, ASACP is now urging the adult entertainment industry to show a greater collective corporate responsibility and to lead by example in combating the increased sexualization of young children.

Charlton explains that one area of concern for both the adult industry and legislators is the ease with which adolescents access copious amounts of free porn — such as through tube sites that do not provide warning pages. Although parental filtering is widely available and the award winning RTA Label (www.rtalabel.org) has made it possible for the vast majority of age restricted materials online to be blocked — the prevailing view among U.K. and increasingly European policy makers is “it’s just not good enough.” One of the reasons for this viewpoint is that technology savvy adolescents can often still gain access to these materials, on a wide range of connected devices, despite parental filters. This, according to many experts currently advising policy makers, is damaging to adolescent development and a major contributor to the increased sexualization of children. He suggests that tube site owners should be looking closely at their business models to restrict the amount of free content available, and should even go as far as to require proper age verification systems on their sites.

“Whether we like it or not, tube sites are a part of the adult industry, but they are also the first port of call for many youngsters accessing free hardcore porn,” Charlton stated. “It is simply insufficient to rely on a 13 year old to click ‘no’ when asked if he is over 18 or not.”

Another problem area is search engine marketing tactics used by some adult website owners, for example, promoting terms such as “underage sex,” when driving traffic to their websites.

“While their sites may not contain any such content, a simple search on Google using that phrase will provide links to multiple ‘clean’ websites,” Charlton stated. “Regarding the inappropriate use of search engine marketing, these websites are simply fanning the flames of the growing backlash against the adult entertainment industry — and if they stopped trying to lure traffic by any means possible, then Google would return far fewer hits than it does at the moment.”

It is not an issue of false advertising or an innocent exercise in website traffic building, but a falsely inflated indicator of the accessibility of illegal material on the Internet today and one that points directly at the online adult entertainment industry.

“We all know that child sexual abuse does not appear on any mainstream adult entertainment websites —such a move would be legal and financial suicide,” Charlton notes. “The vast majority of such imagery takes place in the murky backwaters of the Internet via private, hidden user groups.”

“However, the adult industry is not doing much to help defend its position as a provider of legitimate entertainment to an adult population, and needs to look at itself closely and ask whether or not it is showing enough corporate responsibility in protecting children online,” Charlton added. “In many cases, the answer may well be ‘no.’”

As a result, Charlton says that unless the industry acts to clean up its own backyard, it is most certainly looking at regulations brought into play to make sure that it does, starting in Europe initially and then spreading globally from there.

“ASACP will continue to support the adult entertainment industry within the circles of government and will work hard to portray a positive image of the industry to other external stakeholders,” Charlton concluded. “But unless the industry shows more urgency in working to help itself, it will continue to be a target for tough legislation, which will be detrimental to everyone concerned.”

For more information regarding ASACP, sponsorship opportunities and how your business can help in the fight against European government legislation, please contact tim@asacp.org or vince@asacp.org.

About ASACP

Founded in 1996, ASACP is a non-profit organization dedicated to online child protection.

ASACP is comprised of two separate corporate entities, the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection and the ASACP Foundation. The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization. ASACP manages a membership program that provides resources to companies in order to help them protect children online. The ASACP Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The ASACP Foundation battles child pornography through its CP Reporting Hotline and helps parents prevent children from viewing age-restricted material online with its Restricted To Adults (RTA) website label (www.rtalabel.org). ASACP has invested nearly 17 years in developing progressive programs to protect children, and its relationship in assisting the adult industry’s child protection efforts is unparalleled. For more information, visit www.asacp.org.

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