Archive for the ‘Age Verification’ Category

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House of Commons logoA group of MPs have tabled an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that would force pornography websites to be blocked by ISPs if they fail to verify the age of their users.This is the second time such amendments have been suggested. The MPs involved are Claire Perry, David Burrowes, Fiona Bruce, Derek Thomas, Jeremy Lefroy, Caroline Ansell, Heidi Allen, Andrew Selous, Iain Duncan Smith, Maria Miller, Fiona Mactaggart.

Open Rights Group Executive Director Jim Killock said:

Perhaps these MPs have realised that plans to make all adult websites apply age verification are unworkable as foreign porn sites may simply not comply. They are now suggesting that websites who don’t comply should be blocked — even though their content is perfectly legal.

While child protection is important, this proposal is disproportionate. Censorship of this kind should be reserved for illegal and harmful content.

We are talking about potentially thousands of websites with legal material being censored, something that is unprecedented in the developed world.

The Digital Economy Bill has proposed that all pornography websites should be forced to verify the age of their users. This has sparked concerns that the privacy of adults could be violated. It is not yet clear how age verification will be implemented but it could lead to the collection of data on everyone who visits a porn website. This kind of information could be vulnerable to Ashley Madison style data breaches.

The Open Rights Group further commented:

open rights group 2016 logoThe amendment has been tabled because MPs understand that age verification cannot be imposed upon the entire mostly US-based pornographic industry by the UK alone. In the USA, age verification has been seen by the courts as an infringement on the right of individuals to receive and impart information. This is unlikely to change, so use of age verification technologies will be limited at best.

However, the attempt to punish websites by blocking them is also a punishment inflicted on the visitors to these websites. Blocking them is a form of censorship, it is an attempt to restrict access to them for everyone. When material is restricted in this way, it needs to be done for reasons that are both necessary for the goal, and proportionate to the aim. It has to be effective in order to be proportionate.

The goal is to protect children, although the level of harm has not been established. According to OfCom: More than nine in ten parents in 2015 said they mediated their child’s use of the internet in some way, with 96% of parents of 3-4s and 94% of parents of 5-15s using a combination of: regularly talking to their children about managing online risks, using technical tools, supervising their child, and using rules or restrictions. (1)

70% of households have no children. These factors make the necessity and proportionality of both age verification and censorship quite difficult to establish. This issue affects 30% of households who can choose to apply filters and use other strategies to keep their children safe online.

It is worth remembering also that the NSPCC and others tend to accept that teenagers are likely to continue to access pornography despite these measures. They focus their concerns on 9-12 years olds coming across inappropriate material, despite a lack of evidence that there is any volume of these incidents, or that harm has resulted. While it is very important to ensure that 9-12 year olds are safe online, it seems more practical to focus attention directly on their online environment, for instance through filters and parental intervention, than attempting to make the entire UK Internet conform to standards that are acceptable for this age group.

That MPs are resorting to proposals for website blocking tells us that the age verification proposals themselves are flawed. MPs should be asking about the costs and privacy impacts, and why such a lack of thought has gone into this. Finally, they should be asking what they can do to help children through practical education and discussion of the issues surrounding pornography, which will not go away, with or without attempts to restrict access.

Read more UK Internet Censorship at MelonFarmers.co.uk

arms of the british governmentjpg logo The Queen’s Speech contained the following reference to the Digital Economy Bill:

Digital Economy Bill

Measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband. Legislation will be introduced to make the United Kingdom a world leader in the digital economy.

It seems a bit of a contraction that one of the main elements of the bill is designed to make the UK a world straggler in the digital economy when it comes to adult contents,The notes reveal a little more about the internet censorship section of the bill which reads:

Protecting citizens in the digital economy

  • Protection for consumers from spam email and nuisance calls by ensuring consent is obtained for direct marketing, and that the Information Commissioner is empowered to impose fines on those who break the rules.
  • Protection of children from online pornography by requiring age verification for access to all sites containing pornographic material.

The government notes that the bill will apply to the entire UK.

For further details about government porn censorship proposals see Consultation document [pdf] from gov.uk and the introductory page from gov.uk

Internet censorship also rears its head in:

Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill

Legislation will be introduced to prevent radicalisation, tackle extremism in all its forms, and promote community integration.

In one of the clauses of the bill the government mentionsas:

We will also close loopholes so that Ofcom can continue to protect consumers who watch internet-streamed television content from outside the EU on Freeview.

The government seems to have scaled back on its widely circulated idea of allowing of Ofcom to pre-censor TV broadcasts of ‘extremist’ content.

Read more UK Internet Censorship at MelonFarmers.co.uk

canute consultation The Government has put porn viewers on notice that perhaps it might be wise to download a few 64 Gb memory sticks worth of free porn so that they have enough to last a lifetime. The government has launched a consultation suggesting that foreign porn websites should be blocked, censored and suffocated of funds if they don’t comply with don’t comply with an 18 age verification process and compliance to the discriminatory government censorship rules that ban anything slightly kinky especially if favoured for women’s porn.The tome and ideas in the consultation are very much along primitive and unviable age verification methods that has so successfully suffocated the UK porn business. In fact the consultation notes that the UK impact on the multi billion pound porn industry is insignificant and amounts to just 17 websites.

There seems little in the consultation that considers how the porn industry will evolve if it is made troublesome for adults to get verified. I suspect that there is already enough porn in existence on people’s hard drives to circulate around and last several life times for everybody. Perhaps this should be known as the Canute Consultation.

Anyway, the government writes in its introduction to the consultation:

The UK is a world leader in the work it does to improve child safety online, but we cannot be complacent. Government has a responsibility to protect citizens from harm, especially the young and most vulnerable.

That is why we committed in our manifesto to requiring age verification for access to pornographic material online, and are now seeking views on how we deliver on our commitment. The Consultation Survey

Our preferred method of capturing your responses to our consultation questions is via the dedicated online survey. Please click on the link to share your views with us. Other documents

In order to base policy development on evidence, DCMS commissioned experts from across the UK to conduct a review of evidence into the routes via which children access online pornography. The report of the expert panel was formally submitted in November 2015 and provides helpful context to the issue. Please see document above.

Also published above is our regulatory triage assessment which considers the potential costs to UK businesses.

Respond online

or write to:

FAO Child Online Safety Team
4th Floor
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
100 Parliament Street
London SW1A 2BQ

Responses are required by 12pm on 12th April 2016.

Read more UK Internet Censorship at MelonFarmers.co.uk

David Cameron The Guardian has published an article presumably based on a government press release:

David Cameron is to give pornography websites one last chance to produce an effective voluntary scheme for age-restricted controls on their sites or he will introduce legislation that could see them shut down.

In a consultation to be launched in the autumn, the government will seek views on how best to introduce measures to further restrict under-18s’ access to pornographic websites.

The industry, in the shape of either UK-based websites or internet service providers, will be given an opportunity to develop proposals to block content through payment providers, such as advertisers and other means.

The consultation will also consider the best form of legislation should voluntary agreements not work. A regulatory approach could see primary legislation introduced to make it an offence in the UK to publish pornography online without age verification controls, possibly with a regulator to oversee and enforce controls.

The government recognises the spread of the internet makes it a challenge to find a form of legislation that would cover such sites both in the UK and internationally. The government has raised the prospect of setting up a pornography regulator to oversee the process and fine firms that breach either legislation or the voluntary guidelines.

The aim is to ensure that the rules that apply offline apply online, giving parents the peace of mind of knowing that their children can use the internet safely.

Cameron said his government was working:

To make the internet a safer place for children, the next step in this campaign is to curb access to harmful pornographic content, which is currently far too widely available. I want to see age restrictions put into place or these websites will face being shut down.

The minister for internet safety and security, Joanna Shields, said:

As a result of our work with industry, more than 90% of UK consumers are offered the choice to easily configure their internet service through family-friendly filters — something we take great pride in having achieved. It’s a gold standard that surpasses those of other countries.

Whilst great progress has been made, we remain acutely aware of the risks and dangers that young people face online. This is why we are committed to taking action to protect children from harmful content. Companies delivering adult content in the UK must take steps to make sure these sites are behind age verification controls.

Read more ATVOD Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

ATVOD with award for service to foreign industry Adult entertainment industry representatives met at a roundtable meeting with the UK VoD censors ofATVOD for a discussion over age-verification compliance.The discussion, instigated by ATVOD, IFFOR, ICM Registry and the Adult Provider Network, also took an inward look at how the adult entertainment industry, domestically in the U.K. and worldwide, could evolve and adapt with onerous new rules put in place and ones that could be on the way.

A central question was, Can the adult industry coalesce and work with the authorities over existing and proposed new rules?

Steve Winyard of ICM Registry, which operates the registry for .xxx, .porn, .adult and the upcoming .sex top-level domain sites, said that the real question is:

How far are people willing to be compliant when the hammer comes down?

Most of the big companies [in the online adult entertainment industry] control 80-90% of adult content across the world,. If they come to the table, the rest of the operators would have to follow.

The thinking is that in a world of ID theft, few customers will be willing to trust small websites with extensive personal details or else their credit card details. And even if they trust them, even fewer will want to make the effort of typing in such details just to browse a website to see what is on offer.

The natural final solution is that customers will only use, big, well known companies that  can be trusted with personal details, and that can offer a massive enough choice of porn such that customers don’t have to keep entering ID details for different websites.

And of course the end game will then be a US mega mall monopoly for porn along the lines of Amazon, eBay, iTunes and Play. And no doubt it will charge adult content providers the going rate of about 30%.

At the meeting, ATVOD’s Cathy Taylor fielded queries for 20 minutes on the new AVMS rules and the government statement over site blocking domestic and foreign adult websites. Taylor was joined by ATVOD chief censors, Ruth Evans and Pete Johnson, at the roundtable meeting.

Winyard of ICM Registry spent another 20 minutes on how the adult business worldwide is reacting to the AVMS directive and whether the industry can work with the British government on proposed new regs.

Chris Ratcliff of Portland TV (Television X) and the Adult Provider Network spent 10 minutes on what role should the adult trade play in the debate and whether age-verification is in the future for all adult sites.

The meeting was also attended by Sex & Censorship’s Jerry Barnett, obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman, Vince Charlton from the US trade group ASACP and IFFOR’s Sharon Girling.

Read more UK Government Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

DCMS logo Porn websites will be forced to check users are over 18 under a new crackdown to stop children accessing explicit material.

Mobile phone companies and credit card firms will have to ensure that someone proves they are aged 18 or over before being given access to adult websites.

Now it has emerged that plans are being drawn up to force adult websites to carry out checks on the age of users. It would cover pornography sites, as well as those selling guns and other age-restricted material, the Sunday Times reported.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is working on the plans with Treasury minister Andrea Leadsom, who oversees regulation of the banking system.

However, the new rules would only cover UK-based websites to begin with.  It is already nearly impossible to run a British adult website due to onerous age verification rules and critics have noted that only one of the 1,266 adult websites visited from the UK in December 2013 was a service that is regulated in this country.

It seems very unlikely that these new rules will have any impact onthe availability of porn to children. Even if new downloadswere stopped tomorrow there’s probably already enough knocking around and hard drives and memory sticks to last several lifetimes of playgroundswopsies. The only effect it will have is to add to the mountain of red tape, administrative costs and restrictive regulations that is impoverishing the west.

Offsite Comment: Why age checks on porn sites will do more harm than good

28th October 2014. See  article from  telegraph.co.uk by Martin Daubney

Telegraph logo The Government’s plan to introduce age verification checks only shows that politicians remain too scared to approach the porn problem in a meaningful manner.

…Read the full article