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Protecting The Children

Stephen Yagielowicz
Given the political climate in Washington these days, adult content publishers need to look at their greatest vulnerability: exposing minors to potentially harmful materials. While "keeping the kids out" is a daunting challenge (considering that many of the kids want in, and will do whatever it takes to obtain access to "the promised land"), webmasters are not alone – ASACP is here to help...

The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP.org) helps the adult Internet industry make a difference in the battle against child pornography. In addition to its child pornography reporting hotline and online reporting tools, ASACP provides a self-regulatory vehicle for its members through a Code of Ethics that promotes the protection of children through responsible, professional business practices.

"ASACP reviews all the sites that apply to become an ASACP Approved Member," said Joan Irvine, executive director of ASACP. "Its Membership Coordinator has noticed that a number of sites do not have a warning page that includes all necessary disclaimers, age verification, etc. and excludes images to prevent children from unknowingly viewing adult material, including any access pages, as recommended in its Best Practices. So we felt it important to remind the industry of the importance of this practice, especially in today's political climate."

ASACP's Best Practices are only what it recommends to its members and should not be construed as legal advice. Attorneys may recommend different methods for legal protection, and differing opinions exist as to what legally constitutes online child protection.

At the recent Phoenix Forum, Greg A. Piccionelli, Esq, a partner with Piccionelli & Sarno, warned webmasters to 'keep the kids out of adult material, keep the kids away from adult material... Protection of the children is the one thing that people from both sides of the aisle agree on." In addition, Piccionelli stated that hardcore, sexually explicit images should only be displayed in a protected members area that requires a credit card for access.

Lawrence Walters, Esq., a partner with Weston, Garrou, DeWitt & Walters, has developed a Birthdate Verifier system that goes one step further, and actually blocks entry to the entire site until the user submits an 'electronic affidavit' affirming that user's date of birth, which is electronically signed in accordance with federal E-SIGN legislation.

There are various age verification methods available, and ASACP urges its members to implement one or more of these systems in order to prevent minors from accessing adult materials.

"One of ASACP's goals in the next few years is to educate government officials on the industry's effort in the battle against child pornography," said Irvine. "ASACP's new technology which monitors its members is impressive to most people. However, the next question or comment is always 'but children are receiving emails with adult images or can easily access adult content on the Internet, what is the industry doing about this?'"

"Although it is the parent's responsibility to monitor their children's use of the Internet; as an industry, we need to provide tools to help them," added Irvine. "The industry needs to demonstrate that it is doing something. I am going to Sacramento next week to participate in the FSC Lobbying Days and will be in Washington, D.C. in a few months. We need to have specifics to tell these people."

Speaking of specifics, while many webmasters have heard that "all images depicting sexually explicit conduct should be shielded from access by minors," many do not fully understand the scope of what this means. To help clear the confusion, the following is the legal definition of what constitutes sexually explicit conduct, as cited in Title 18, U.S.C. § 2256:

"Sexually explicit conduct" means actual or simulated—

(A) sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex;

(B) bestiality;

(C) masturbation;

(D) sadistic or masochistic abuse; or

(E) lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person;

By preventing access to material of this nature by minors, you will not only be in closer compliance with the law, but will be protecting the children – something which ASACP wholeheartedly supports.

"ASACP understood that to be effective in its mission, it needed to expand its mission to include child protection. This is one of the reasons why ASACP recently changed its name to the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection and added the tagline 'Protecting Your Business by Protecting Children,'" concluded Irvine.

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