During the hearing, Arkansas Democrat Sen. Mark Pryor suggested that "Congress needs to do something about [freely available pornography] to make the Internet a safer place," and admonished veteran adult industry attorney Paul Cambria — and through him, the entire online adult industry — by saying, "If you don't clean up your act, we will!"
At the time, Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) CEO Joan Irvine told XBIZ that "Nobody knows how a government labeling system might work, or how it could affect your business. And even if mandatory labeling doesn't pass this time, they're sure to keep tossing new rules against the wall until one finally sticks."
"But we can avoid this by demonstrating that the industry is capable of self-regulation," Irvine added.
Adult Industry Responds to Congress
Our industry demonstrated that capability, when on Nov. 6, 2006, with the backing of a broad group of industry supporters, ASACP launched the Restricted To Adults (RTA) website label — and it has experienced amazing growth since.
"From the awards it has received to its incredible adoption rate, RTA is gaining notoriety and popularity," Irvine told XBIZ. "In turn this is influencing companies like AOL and Microsoft/Vista and their decision to recognize it."
"Thanks to the support of the adult industry, ASACP has been able to create a free and easy-to-use label to designate content for adults only," Irvine said. "The movie industry has MPAA, the video gaming industry has ESRB, and now the adult industry has its own label with RTA."
"We want the adult industry to be proud of how they have come together to protect children," Irvine added.
And come together it has; showing an unprecedented level of unity and support.
RTA now boasts of having more than 3 million participating web pages; accounting for an incredible 3 billion daily visits to pages labeled with RTA. And it is doubtless that among these billions of daily visits that more than a few were by underage viewers that were protected from viewing adult materials because the website used the RTA label.
The RTA website has also helped in educating the 400,000 webmasters and consumers that arrive monthly from the more than 5 million in-links to rtalabel.org — which are defined as "a unique link to www.rtalabel.org from an offsite webpage."
But it's not just the link-ins that drives traffic to the website. Various companies in the industry have all worked together to make RTA a success: including web hosting service provider Webair, which donates a dedicated server for spidering the web to measure statistics on RTA adoption; and SEO powerhouse Wildline, which donates its search engine expertise to help the ASACP and RTA websites in the traffic game.
But RTA isn't about traffic — it's about protecting the children; doing the right thing; and responding to Congressional demands that the industry take proactive measures to ensure that minors don't access our wares — and more.
According to Cybersocket President Morgan Sommer, one of RTA's earliest supporters and a member of the ASACP Advisory Council, the label helps his company steer clear of consumers it doesn't want anyway.
"Cybersocket supports the mission of ASACP and particularly endorses the RTA self labeling system," Sommer said. "RTA has been adopted by our company and is used on every one of our sites."
"We also employ the RTA system in our listing submission process at Cybersocket.com," Sommer added, referring to how Cybersocket has added a clause to its Terms of Service that requires listed websites to be labeled with RTA.
RTA Receives Widespread Recognition
The RTA label is recognized by all major content filtering programs and is protected worldwide by a U.S. trademark; an EU community mark; and an Australia Use Mark.
ASACP and RTA have also become widely recognized by the mainstream and lawmakers as a positive force in child protection and have had many awards bestowed upon them, including being named the Overall Winner of the ASAE 2008 Associations Make A Better World, along with making the AAA 2008 Honor Roll; and receiving a variety of accolades from the U.S. House Of Representatives; the California State Senate and State Assembly; and the cities of Los Angeles; Redondo Beach; West Hollywood and San Diego.
RTA has also been mentioned in numerous articles and news reports, including the law review article, "Untangling Child Pornography from the Adult Entertainment Industry: An inside Look at the Industry's Efforts to Protect Minors"
Despite all of this media publicity, however, it was new media sensation that brought RTA to the attention of many people; through the popular Public Service Announcements (PSA) that ASACP produced with adult personalities Stormy Daniels, Tera Patrick and Evan Seinfeld. The videos, available on the association's website and YouTube Channel, have received a combined total of over half-a-million views.
Future videos are scheduled to feature Sunny Leone, Ron Jeremy and Chi Chi LaRue; while production company GirlFriendsFilms is developing a "PSA template" that will allow any company that is an ASACP sponsor to create an RTA PSA using its own stars.
As for what else the future holds, "ASACP is very excited about President-elect Barack Obama," Irvine told XBIZ, as she echoed the optimism that is being felt by many adult operators at all levels and in all market segments, who look forward to a more co-operative era, or at least a less-hostile one, between the industry and federal lawmakers.
"ASACP's advocacy group, The Raben Group, is positioned to be very well connected with the new administration and I am looking forward to visiting Washington on a regular basis in 2009 in order to let them know what the adult industry is doing to protect children online," Irvine added. "In addition we are expecting there to be a committee on online child protection and we are working towards being a part of that committee."
For an effort founded on the basis of a Congressional Committee, such a successful future for RTA, its parent organization and the industry as a whole, is fitting indeed.