ATVOD: 23 U.K. Porn Sites Investigated in Recent Months

LONDON — ATVOD, the authority that regulates video-on-demand in the U.K., disclosed Wednesday that 23 U.K. porn sites have been investigated over Rule 11 violations in recent months.

U.K.-based adult operators now face enforcement of Rule 11, which requires that they ensure that those under 18 cannot access hardcore porn.

Of those 23 adult sites probed, 13 were to be in breach of Rule 11, ATVOD said.

"Two of those found to be in breach have now closed and eight have become compliant by placing all hardcore material behind an effective access control mechanism," ATVOD said. "Four services which had failed to make changes within a specified time to ensure that under-18s cannot normally see hardcore material have been referred to [U.K. communications regulator] OFCOM so the back-stop regulator can consider whether to impose a financial penalty or restrict or suspend the service."

ATVOD, formally known as Authority for Television On Demand, noted that the 23 porn site investigations were preceded by the closure of Bootybox.tv in January. Bootybox operators closed the site after they could not comply with the new rules.

ATVOD investigations over Rule 11 included Anywhere.XXX and StrictlyBroadband.com, which were given up by long-time site operator Jerry Barnett after U.K. regulators served papers in August that gave him a strict schedule to comply with new age-verification rules.

At the time, Barnett told XBIZ that the rules for adult sites "make it effectively impossible to run a video-on-demand site in the U.K."

The British regulatory agency made the disclosure about the porn probes in a report to the U.K. Council for Child Internet Safety that was released today. The agency did not disclose the names or operators of websites under investigation.

ATVOD’s interpretation of Rule 11 is that there should be in place an effective Content Access Control System, known as the CAC System, that verifies that the user is 18 or over at the point of registration or access by the mandatory use of technical tools for age verification, including:

  • Confirmation of credit card ownership or other form of payment where mandatory proof that the account holder is 18 or over;
  • A personal digital identity management service, or PIN, which uses checks on an independent and reliable database, such as the electoral roll; or,
  • Other comparable proof of account ownership which effectively verifies age.

In the report, as well as another one to the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications, ATVOD articulates its emerging public policy positions.

ATVOD said that its public policy should focus on clearly identified areas of public concern, including the ease with which children can access hardcore porn online, as well as parental controls and media education.

But it also said that enforcement of non-U.K. porn sites isn't feasible.

"ATVOD has no power to impose similar restrictions on hardcore porn websites operating from outside the U.K. but accessible from within the U.K., including by U.K. children," ATVOD said. "Such websites include tube sites whose business model  is to create traffic by offering free (often pirated) hardcore porn content and generate revenue by selling banner ads and driving that traffic to their own and third-party paysites.

"Such tube sites depend on maximizing the number of visitors and therefore provide no barriers to viewing the free hardcore porn content they offer, often eschewing even a token warning landing page."

ATVOD noted that the top 100 websites visited by people in U.K. include five adult sites offering free hardcore material without any access controls.

"Without effective action to limit children’s access to such non-U.K. porn services, regulation of U.K. porn services is therefore likely to have a limited impact on U.K. children’s exposure to hardcore pornography."

ATVOD suggested that further consideration should be given to more active enforcement existing legislation, including the U.K.'s Obscene Publications Act.

View ATVOD paper

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