opinion

Finding a Better Road in the Midst of a Changing Regulatory Landscape

Tim Henning

With the first months of 2014 coming to a close, ASACP has already had a busy year, with its recent attendance at two of the major adult entertainment industry trade events, XBIZ 360 in Hollywood and the AEE/Internext event in Las Vegas.

One of the highlights of attending these events was the annual XBIZ Awards, where I presented ASACP’s Director of European Outreach, Vince Charlton, with the custom engraved crystal ASACP Service Recognition Award, honoring his outstanding commitment to protecting children as well as boosting the welfare of the adult industry — a balancing act that requires a deft touch and high level of dedication to the mission.

Twenty years into the adult Internet, regulations and restrictions are coming into play. Make no mistake — there is no stopping this bus — but there is the opportunity to influence the roads that it will carve into the regulatory landscape.

For example, during the past year, Vince had numerous meetings with Cameron government reps such as Claire Perry and ATVOD, plus U.K. ISPs, U.K. child protection organizations and digital media policy experts, as well as online adult entertainment business owners, all leading to important changes made to the U.K. filtering regimen.

Charlton also brought ASACP into the headlines and to the public through BBC and BBC Radio interviews educating stakeholders about the association’s vital mission. He also obtained new sponsorships and memberships for ASACP and renewed the association’s relationship with the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) as well as that with Microsoft U.K., and represented ASACP at mainstream conferences including those held by FOSI EU and ATVOD, along with adult industry events such as Barcelona Summit, XBIZ London and the EU Summit in Budapest.

It is safe to say that Vince’s work throughout the U.K. and across the EU has been invaluable to the industry, earning this year’s award.

The U.K. is not the end of this road, however, as it is only one arena in the global effort to restrict adult oriented content at the ISP level, which is of great concern to many digital media publishers, and a source of study for other groups and governments.

For example, India is also making similar moves in the name of ending easy access to CP on the Internet. For its part, the Internet Service Providers Association of India (ISPAI) petitioned India’s Supreme Court to prevent the prohibition, arguing that ISPAI only provides Internet access to customers and as simple conduits for digital information cannot be held responsible for identifying and blocking websites that could contain porn.

Because only voluntary restrictions, rather than a legal mandate (an approach that is somewhat similar to the U.K. initiative), are currently being addressed, the ISPAI notes that it could not reasonably ban sites containing what some feel is objectionable content, without lawful court orders or firm government regulation.

From the ISP’s perspective, they are merely the agent by which other’s messages are sent, and should be no more held accountable for the content it carries than the phone company can be penalized due to the content of its customers’ discussions. As far as they are concerned, they are in the business of passing data packets, and not child protection.

If content-based restrictions are placed on ISPs, they will suddenly find themselves thrust into the role of policeman. Having to look over the shoulders of their customers to snoop on what they are doing, and then stopping it if it is an activity that is disapproved of by a minority of intolerant and judgmental individuals.

It is a matter of conflicting positions which complicate businesses’ basic operations by saddling them with external, impractical and unwanted demands. ASACP understands the dichotomy because it on the one hand protects children and other viewers from exposure to the very same material it seeks to protect on the other hand, for a real tightrope act where positions that don’t please everyone must sometimes be taken.

As an online child protection agency, ASACP cannot oppose moves to protect kids — or hinder efforts intended to limit the spread of adult themed depictions of underage performers. What ASACP can do is bring common sense and common ground to the equation by educating stakeholders about the proactive measures that professional adult websites use to prevent minors from accessing adult content — such as the Restricted To Adults (RTA) website Meta label, and how these tools fit into the reality of the situation.

These self-regulatory efforts illustrate the value of encouraging the industry to work together to achieve common goals, such as universally adopting the RTA label as well as abiding by ASACP’s Best Practices and Code of Ethics — after all, it is in these companies’ own self interest to do so, over and above the value of doing the right thing.

For example, it needs to be pointed out that Usenet, BitTorrent and cyber lockers contain the most egregious material, including pirated content, and that squelching this type of traffic could do more good than will filtering general Internet traffic.

Whether you view the aftermath of the current clamor for ISP based content filters as a plus or a minus also depends on your perspective: if hindering access raises the bar and pushes out marginal players, then there is more opportunity for professional groups, such as the companies that sponsor ASACP or serve as its members.

Twenty years into the adult Internet, regulations and restrictions are coming into play. Make no mistake — there is no stopping this bus — but there is the opportunity to influence the roads that it will carve into the regulatory landscape. ASACP is at the forefront of ensuring that adult entertainment companies get a fair shake in any corporate or legislative move — but these companies must also do their part to make the Internet safer for children and for those who do not want to be exposed to sexually explicit material.

It is the common ground that will benefit us all — building relationships and bridges that serve to solve problems and find those roads that will serve the interests of all stakeholders.

For more information regarding ASACP, sponsorship opportunities and how your business can help, 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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