opinion

ASACP: Taking a Stand Against ATVOD’s Age-check Initiatives

Tim Henning

The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) is continuing to call for more thoughtful solutions to the problem of preventing minors from accessing legal adult entertainment websites, following recent actions in the U.K. that will require age verification to view porn online — actions being eyed across the EU and elsewhere. Some believe that recent moves by both the UK Government and ATVOD to restrict access to view legal pornography online stem from a “moral panic” that is gaining traction in the UK and beyond.

After careful study separating the facts from the rhetoric, the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) wishes to be clear on its stance regarding ATVOD’s push to mandate age verification systems for adult oriented websites. ATVOD, the U.K.’s Authority on Television and Video On Demand, is petitioning the British government, seeking the imposition of technical measures to prevent minors from accessing age inappropriate content online. ATVOD is pursuing initiatives that restrict payment processing options for adult entertainment sites — and is moving to make age verification systems (AVS) the law of the land. Not content with regulating the domestic U.K. adult entertainment industry, ATVOD seeks to project its control over websites wherever they are hosted, if they are available in the U.K. — which is a move affecting countless website operators, including many of ASACP’s sponsors.

ATVOD is proposing legislation that would require credit card and payment processing companies to refuse payment to sites that do not comply by using an age verification service before granting access to pornographic content.

ATVOD is proposing legislation that would require credit card and payment processing companies to refuse payment to sites that do not comply by using an age verification service before granting access to pornographic content. You might wonder why this is necessary when the use of a credit card is currently considered adequate age verification. This ATVOD concedes is true but adult entertainment sites that require payment for access to content are not the larger problem according to ATVOD — it’s the “tube” sites and the sheer volume of freely accessible porn of every variety and niche imaginable that needs to be controlled. Unless these free content sites adopt Age Verification checks for UK traffic access, ATVOD plans to cut off their money supply no matter what country the website is based. Since the “tube” site model does not require payment to access their content ATVOD proposes to go after the companies that pay for advertising on “tube” sites and prevent them from being able to accept credit cards — for their goods and services — by blocking their credit card merchant accounts.

While ATVOD’s efforts may seek to make the Internet safer for children, which is the core goal of ASACP and its mission of keeping children out of and away from age inappropriate content, the association believes that the proposed age verification measures are over-broad, and do not address the most important factor in this equation — the role of the parent. ATVOD also seeks to block a broad range of material from UK citizens that may go far further than just adult entertainment content. Just as the recent UK ISP level parental filters turned out to block content ranging from non-erotic nudity to sex education, so this new bill can be expected to be overly broad in its definition of adult entertainment content.

ASACP have always promoted the concept that Adult entertainment should only be made available to Adults and believe that parental filtering technology coupled with education and parental guidance is the most effective way to protect children online today. Existing resources such as ASACP’s Restricted To Adults (RTA) website meta label, which self-identifies web pages and mobile apps as containing age restricted material, greatly improve the accuracy of web filtering tools — but even this free service coupled with parental filtering technology is not a replacement for education and effective parental guidance. ASACP has a long history of encouraging proactive industrial self-regulation for adult sites, through tools such as RTA, along with the association’s Best Practices and Code of Ethics. These efforts allow publishers and parents to work together to protect at-risk youth from age-restricted materials — but do not infringe on the privacy and rights of adults.

Finding a balance between efficacy in child protection and the preservation of an adults’ right to view websites of his or her choosing will be difficult, and will take more than technology. No technical solution currently exists that is 100 percent effective, especially if attempting to block older, tech-savvy teens, who are actively seeking sexually explicit material. It all comes down to effective parenting and providing parents the education and tools needed, rather than technological placebos, as being the only truly effective method to address the problem of minors’ accessing age inappropriate content. With all of this in mind, ASACP cannot support ATVOD’s call for mandatory age verification, but continues to work with all stakeholders to develop a workable solution that protects the needs and interests of children, their parents and guardians as well as adult consumers and publishers of legal erotica, alike.

The legitimate online adult entertainment industry must continue to be proactive regarding child protection issues given this climate of control. Time and again it has been proven that children are a universally convenient excuse for controlling legal adult entertainment on the internet as well as the rights of adults to freely view the websites they wish in the privacy of their own home. If you want to keep your business alive, keep kids out of and away from it — please remember that RTA is the best solution for doing so today. Other steps you can take will include supporting ASACP as a member or sponsor as well as adhering to ASACP’s established Code of Ethics and industry segment-specific Best Practices.

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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