opinion

U.K. Regulators Maintain Pressure on Content Providers

Tim Henning

In light of U.K. regulator ATVOD’s CEO Peter Johnson’s much anticipated address at the XBIZ EU digital media conference in London, ASACP’s Director of European Outreach, Vince Charlton, met with Johnson at ATVOD’s London offices to put forward the concerns of the adult entertainment digital media Industry and to get a better understanding of exactly where ATVOD stands on what is perceived by many in the Industry to be a draconian censorship of online pornography within the U.K.

It was clear from the meeting that, contrary to the commonly held view that the U.K. is trying to shut the doors to porn, their overriding objective is to prevent access to adult material by minors.

It was clear from the meeting that, contrary to the commonly held view that the U.K. is trying to shut the doors to porn, their overriding objective is to prevent access to adult material by minors.

While It is extremely difficult for content providers in north America to understand the reasoning behind the U.K.’s stance given the general acceptance that it is the role of the parents to monitor what their children watch online and that existing parental filters together with ASACP’s award winning RTA label are more than sufficient, it is a fact that the U.K. government, rightly or wrongly, believes this provides insufficient protection and that further steps need to be taken.

Key points:

• ATVOD, with the backing of U.K. law, have stated that the point of publication is actually where the content is viewed and not where it is created. This will adversely affect any business, regardless of where they are geographically based.

• Although it is commonly recognised that payment by credit card is a reasonable proof of legal age to view adult material, other payment methods such as debit card, bank transfer and other alternative payment methods have been — and continue to be — used by minors and ATVOD are in the process of discussing with U.K. payment providers effective methods of blocking such payments, originating in the U.K., for any sites that fail to abide by ATVOD guidelines.

• Only by the adoption of Age Verification Services (AVS) will any online merchant dealing with the U.K. be allowed full unrestricted access to the U.K. market.

While there will be many in the Industry who think this whole issue will blow over in time the reality is that ATVOD are a regulatory body with teeth and they are not afraid to use their authority to accomplish their goals.

Vince Charlton commented after the meeting:

“What came across loud and clear was that the U.K. does not have some pathological fear of pornography but they believe firmly that access to it must be better regulated. ATVOD has the full backing of all the main political parties in the U.K. and it is laying its cards clearly on the table by giving the Industry the opportunity to put in place effective restrictions on minors accessing inappropriate material to maintain their business but if AVS is not taken up then there is the real problem that adult companies, wherever they are located will find the U.K. market effectively closed to them. ATVOD will accomplish this by blocking sites in violation at the ISP level.”

“Although the U.K. is clearly taking the lead in this issue it is a mistake to believe this is an isolated case with the European Union following developments closely with the possibility of expanding the AVS stance across Europe”

As many know by now, it isn’t just ATVOD that is putting pressure on the adult entertainment digital media Industry in the U.K. The Prime Minister of the U.K., David Cameron, has outlined his plans to crack down on online pornography, to “make the Internet safer for children.”

Cameron said that there are two very distinct and very different challenges to dealing with the issue of children and their access to (or involvement in) unsuitable online content.

“The first challenge is criminal: and that is the proliferation and accessibility of child abuse images on the Internet,” Cameron explained. “The second challenge is cultural: the fact that many children are viewing online pornography and other damaging material at a very young age and that the nature of that pornography is so extreme, it is distorting their view of sex and relationships.”

The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection is calling for thoughtful solutions to the problem of preventing minors from accessing legal adult entertainment websites. ASACP has addressed both of these valid concerns since the earliest days of adult oriented websites being available on the Internet and has developed solutions that are far less intrusive into the private lives of average consumers, while being more respectful of their rights, than is the means by which the U.K. government hopes to achieve its goals; including a rigid opt-in program that will force families to accept or reject adult services at the carrier level — with a default “no.”

These measures will not only hurt legitimate content providers, but place added strains on marriages and other relationships, when the safe outlet of online sex is removed — or is maintained at the cost of damaged emotions when the “yes” box is clicked.

“The U.K. government is now fully baring its teeth — in the fight against — what it sees — as the ‘corrosion of childhood’, but the way they are going about it seems to be shifting the responsibility away from parents. So in future when the issue of minors accessing porn still exists, they can hold their heads up high and say that it was the parent’s active choice and that the government of the day had fulfilled its responsibilities.” stated Vince Charlton.

ASACP hopes that as other stakeholders explore ways in which minors can be prevented from accessing age-inappropriate materials, that existing solutions such as RTA will be considered, rather than mandating protocols that harm rights and relationships without addressing the role of parents and technology in the process.

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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