LOS ANGELES — The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) is calling for more thoughtful solutions to the problem of preventing minors from accessing legal adult entertainment websites, following recent actions taken by the U.K. that require registration to view porn online — actions being eyed across the EU and elsewhere.
Following a period of widespread anticipation, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, delivered a speech outlining his plans to crack down on online pornography, to “make the Internet safer for children.”
Cameron said that there are two very distinct and very different challenges to dealing with the issue of children and their access to (or involvement in) unsuitable online content.
“The first challenge is criminal: and that is the proliferation and accessibility of child abuse images on the Internet,” Cameron explained. “The second challenge is cultural: the fact that many children are viewing online pornography and other damaging material at a very young age and that the nature of that pornography is so extreme, it is distorting their view of sex and relationships.”
ASACP has addressed both of these valid concerns since the earliest days of adult oriented websites being available on the Internet and has developed solutions that are far less intrusive into the private lives of average consumers, while being more respectful of their rights, than is the means by which Cameron hopes to achieve his goals; including a rigid opt-in program that will force families to accept or reject adult services at the carrier level — with a default “no.”
These measures will not only hurt legitimate Internet content providers, but place added strains on marriages and other relationships, when the safe outlet of online sex is removed — or is maintained at the cost of damaged emotions when the “yes” box is clicked.
A better set of solutions includes increasing awareness of the ASACP CP Reporting Hotline, which consumers can use to report suspected cases of underage performers appearing in adult or sexually explicit contexts; along with using the ASACP developed Restricted To Adults (RTA) website metadata label, which works hand-in-hand with current website filtering tools to prevent legitimate adult entertainment content from finding its way into households where it is not welcome.
“The U.K. government is now baring its teeth in the fight against what it sees as the ‘corrosion of childhood’ and the ever increasing ‘sexualization of children,’” ASACP’s Executive Director, Tim Henning, stated following the news from the U.K. “It has also decided that the greater population must be protected from viewing, what the government considers, the ‘most extreme forms of adult pornography.’”
“Extreme” is a nebulous term, however, that calls to mind the old saying that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
“The online adult entertainment industry must stand up and be proactive given this climate of control, since kids are a universally convenient excuse for the prohibition of porn,” Henning added, explaining that if these companies want to keep their businesses alive, they must keep children out of and away from adult materials. “And remember that RTA is the best solution for doing so today.”
The new restrictions on Internet access announced in the U.K. came as no surprise to ASACP, as its Director of European Outreach, Vince Charlton, has been closely monitoring this scene.
“Whilst I can understand the reasoning behind wanting a clamp down on the ease in which minors can access free hardcore pornography on the web, the way this mandatory filtering has been structured is fraught with problems,” Charlton stated. “Any family who wants to watch 18+ material will still opt-in to do so which will leave them in the same position as they are in now where they will have the option to install parental controls which have been on the market since the Internet began.”
“All the U.K. government seems to be achieving is shifting the responsibility away from parents,” Charlton added. “So in future when the issue of minors accessing porn still exists, they can hold their heads up high and say that it was the parent’s active choice and that the government of the day had fulfilled its responsibilities.”
ASACP hopes that as other stakeholders explore ways in which minors can be prevented from accessing age-inappropriate materials, that existing solutions such as RTA will be considered, rather than mandating protocols that harm rights and relationships without addressing the role of parents and technology in the process.