ATVOD Seeks to Block Payments to Non-U.K. Hardcore Porn Sites

Rhett Pardon

LONDON — ATVOD's chief executive says he's in discussions with processors about blocking payments to non-U.K. websites that offer hardcore porn.

Peter Johnson, who leads the British regulator of video-on-content, said that websites that offer hardcore porn outside of restricted sections, without rigorous age-verification barriers, could be violation of the U.K.'s Obscene Publications Act and be operating illegally in the country.

"If you're offering [hardcore porn] in your shop window, you're breaking U.K. law," he said on Friday at the Westminster eForum conference. "Even if you're not in the U.K., you're breaking U.K. law because our children can access it.

"Therefore your shop is trading illegally. Therefore funds should not be flowing from the U.K. to your shop, because your shop is fundamentally operating in an unlawful capacity."

Johnson mentioned one porn site as a target — Manwin's PornHub.com — according to Wired.

PornHub, Johnson said, offers hardcore pornographic content freely without age-verification barriers, including credit card, passport or driving license checks.  

"The free stuff is the shop window," he said, referring to PornHub's opening web page.

Johnson has the law on his side with a 2000 British appeals court decision that held that if content held on U.S. servers is viewed in the U.K., that content becomes subject to U.K. law.

The appeals court, in its decision, said "the content of American websites could come under British jurisdiction when downloaded in the U.K."

One possible tool for blocking payments could be the creation of a blacklist of non-U.K. companies that were judged to be operating unlawfully, he said.

"It's an early stage, but we're working with the U.K. Cards Association and major companies who are involved in processing payments from U.K. bank accounts to online services," Johnson said.  "We're getting more and more support for everyone to sit down together to discuss matters of common interest."

The U.K. Cards Association, Wired reported, has been in touch with Johnson over the issue. The trade group comprises of members Barclays, Capital One, American Express and WorldPay.

"Representatives of the U.K. Cards Association have met officers of ATVOD, with a view to supporting their work to restrict adult images online to children using the Internet," a U.K. Cards Association spokesperson told Wired. "We have agreed to play a role in linking up ATVOD with other organizations concerned with the operation of card payments."

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