Research carried out on behalf of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) confirms public demand for putting certain types of glamour imagery behind adult filters on mobile devices.
The BBFC has been the provider of the Mobile Classification Framework used by Mobile Network Operators in the UK to calibrate their filters since September 2013. This Classification Framework, along with the policies that underpin it, is consistent with the standards used to classify film and videos.
Very broad patterns about the kinds of images that were thought to be unacceptable for those under 18 are highlighted in the research . An overwhelming majority of participants indicated that images containing sexualised full frontal nudity, sex acts, or explicit sexual poses were unacceptable. Conversely, images deemed acceptable by the majority of participants tended to depict models who were wearing more clothes, or less explicitly sexualised poses.
Participants in the research showed concern for protecting children aged nine to 13 years old, because they were considered to be the most impressionable. The lack of context for glamour images is also perceived as problematic, in addition to the nature of viewing content on devices, where parental oversight is less likely and sharing capabilities amongst peers is easy to achieve.
David Austin, Assistant Director, BBFC, said:
The public has given a clear indication of what sort of glamour imagery they would like to see restricted to adults only. We have responded to the research by publishing a policy response which we will apply when considering glamour content under the BBFC’s Classification Framework for mobile content.
Hamish MacLeod, chair of the Mobile Broadband Group, commented:
Mobile operators in the UK have been placing adult content behind access controls since 2005, in accordance with established, independent standards. The BBFC’s latest research provides robust and up-to-date evidence to ensure that the standards used will remain consistent with other media and will continue to meet public expectations
The research reflects wider attitudes around protecting children from inappropriate sexual imagery highlighted in, for example, the independent 2011 Bailey review Letting Children be Children.
The BBFC Mobile Classification Framework, adopted by the UK’s four Mobile Network Operators in September 2013, defines content that is unsuitable for customers under the age of 18 and is based on the BBFC’s published Classification Guidelines, which are updated every 4/5 years and based on large scale public opinion research. The last review of the BBFC Classification Guidelines, in 2013, involved more than 10,000 members of the public from across the UK.
The BBFC’s policy response to the research (outlined below) covers situations where the BBFC is considering where to draw the line in relation to the classification of glamour content at the adult category or below the adult category, delivered via mobile networks. The policy takes into account that the content generally features little or no context. The BBFC’s consideration is relevant to whether that content sits behind or in front of adult filters operated by the UK’s Mobile Network Operators.
About the research ‘Filtering Glamour Content on Mobile Devices for Under 18 year olds’
The research was carried out by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the BBFC. The methodology of the research comprises an online quantitative survey plus qualitative focus group based research.
The online quantitative survey showed 1,000 participants 30 images and four short video clips. Quotas were in place to ensure participants were a representative spread across Great Britain and includied those with children in their household; 25% with children at home and 75% without children at home, to reflect the proportion of households in the UK with children under the age of 16 years. The participants were asked whether each should be placed behind an age filter so only 18+ year olds could access it on mobile devices.
The second qualitative stage of the research comprised of eight single gender mini focus groups in four locations across Great Britain, plus a trio interview. The qualitative stage recruited a mixture of ethnicities, ages, demographics and lifestages (e.g parents with children at home, non-parents, parents with children who have left home). The focus groups took place in London, Portsmouth, Leeds and Edinburgh.
PUBLIC ACCEPTABILITY OF GLAMOUR IMAGES ON MOBILE DEVICES:
THE BBFC’S POLICY RESPONSE
Research carried out on behalf of the BBFC in 2014 demonstrates that members of the public are concerned by children and young people accessing certain “glamour” content which, in their view, is inappropriate and even has the potential to cause harm. The public was concerned in particular by glamour content, both still images and videos, that features a sexual invitation and/or an intention to sexually arouse the viewer. The public argued that the sexual invitation may consist of either one strong sexual element or a mixture of less individually salient elements that combine to make a sexual invitation.
There is support for the use of adult filters to prevent, as far as possible, those under 18 accessing such content.
Some members of the public participating in this research noted the specific nature of viewing content on a mobile device. They considered that the nature of these devices enables children and young people to evade parental oversight, to decontextualise images and to share them among peer groups. These issues are more problematic in glamour content than other genres, as there is no context or narrative provided for the viewer. Respondents therefore urged the BBFC to take into account the particular nature of viewing glamour content on mobile devices.
B. The response of the BBFC
The response outlined below covers situations where the BBFC is considering where to draw the line in relation to the classification, delivered via mobile networks, of glamour content at the adult category or below the adult category. This content generally features little or no context. The BBFC’s consideration is relevant to calibrating the filters used by the UK’s Mobile Network Operators to restrict access to internet content.
The response does not cover the classification of sex, sex references and nudity in other contexts (for example narrative or documentary films) which may involve richly contextualised material.
The BBFC is unlikely to classify below 18 glamour content, both still images and video, featuring:
A sexual invitation
An intention to sexually arouse the viewer
The following content is unlikely to be acceptable for under 18 year olds to view on a mobile device in a glamour context:
Full frontal nudity in a sexualised manner, or exposure of the genitals
Sexual poses that imply readiness for sex or draw attention to sex organs whether exposed or not, (for example a woman bending over and/or spreading her legs) which heighten the sexual invitation or the arousing nature of an image
Unambiguous sexual fetish themes in an obvious or sustained manner
Beyond these elements, the public remains concerned by the cumulative impact of layering of sexual elements that it wants the BBFC to take into consideration alongside other factors. These include images that:
Play to male fantasies, such as ‘girl on girl’
Objectify women and which are primarily about sexual arousal for the viewer, evoking ideas about female exploitation and inequality
Convey an obvious sexual invitation, such as ‘come hither’, sultry and sexual facial expressions
Feature non explicit but clearly sexual poses
Link sex and with other adult themes, such as drinking or gambling
The BBFC will take account of these factors in considering the classification of glamour material featuring such content.