Posts Tagged ‘Age Verification’

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dcms age verification risk assessment The UK government slipped out its impact assessment of the upcoming porn censorship law during the Christmas break. The new law requires porn websites to be blocked in the UK when they don’t implement age verification.The measures are currently due to come into force in May but it seems a tight schedule as even the rules for acceptable age verification systems have not yet been published.

The report contains some interesting costings and assessment of the expected harms to be inflicted on porn viewers and British adult businesses.

The document notes the unpopularity of the age verification requirements with a public consultation finding that 54% of respondents did not support the introduction of a law to require age verification.

However, the government has forged ahead, with the aim of stopping kids accessing porn on the grounds that such content could distress them or harm their development.

The governments censorship rules will be enforced by the BBFC, in its new role as the UK porn censor although it prefers the descriptor: age-verification regulator . The government states that the censorship job will initially be funded by the government, and the government is assuming this will cost £4.5 million based upon a range of estimates from 1 million to 8 million.

The government has bizarrely assumed that the BBFC will ban just 1 to 60 sites in a year. The additional work for ISPs to block these sites is estimated £100,000 to £500,000 for each ISP. Probably to be absorbed by larger companies, but will be an expensive problem for smaller companies who do not currently implement any blocking systems.

Interestingly the government notes that there wont be any impact on UK adult businesses notionally because they should have already implemented age verification under ATVOD and Ofcom censorship rules. In reality it will have little impact on UK businesses because they have already been decimated by the ATVOD and Ofcom rules and have mostly closed down or moved abroad.

Te key section of the document summarising expected harms is as follows.

The policy option set out above also gives rise to the following risks:

  • Deterring adults from consuming content as a result of privacy/ fraud concerns linked to inputting ID data into sites and apps, also some adults may not be able to prove their age online;
  • Development of alternative payment systems and technological work-arounds could mean porn providers do not comply with new law, and enforcement is impossible as they are based overseas, so the policy goal would not be achieved;
  • The assumption that ISPs will comply with the direction of the regulator;
  • Reputational risks including Government censorship, over-regulation, freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
  • The potential for online fraud could raise significantly, as criminals adapt approaches in order to make use of false AV systems / spoof websites and access user data;
  • The potential ability of children, particularly older children, to bypass age verification controls is a risk. However, whilst no system will be perfect, and alternative routes such as virtual private networks and peer-to-peer sharing of content may enable some under-18s to see this content, Ofcom research indicates that the numbers of children bypassing network level filters, for example, is very low (ca. 1%).
  • Adults (and some children) may be pushed towards using ToR and related systems to avoid AV where they could be exposed to illegal and extreme material that they otherwise would never have come into contact with.

The list does not seem to include the potential for blackmail from user data sold by porn firms, or else stolen by hackers. And mischievously, politicians could be one of the groups most open to blackmail for money or favours.

Another notable omission, is that the government does not seem overly concerned about mass VPN usage. I would have thought that the secret services wanting to monitor terrorists would not be pleased if a couple of million people stared to use encrypted VPNs. Perhaps it shows that the likes of GCHQ can already see into what goes on behind VPNs.

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putin keenHere’s what worries cybersecurity experts: All age verification options would create a permanent record indicating that a user had visited a porn site. They could possibly even record the porn that the visitor had watched.

Matt Tait, a cybersecurity expert formerly of the GCHQ (the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the National Security Agency) who now teaches at the University of Texas, notes that any registration system could be a monumental national security risk. He adds, It’s beyond insane they’re even considering it.

Tait envisions a time coming soon, when a British government official will have to give the following message to the Prime Minister:

Sorry Prime Minister, Russia now knows what porn every MP, civil servant and clearance holder watches and when, and we don’t know how much of it they’ve given to Wikileaks.

If porn consumers in the United Kingdom are the losers, Tait suggests there is a potential winner: Vladimir Putin.

…Read the full article from motherjones.com

Read more UK Internet Censorship at MelonFarmers.co.uk

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

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 Britons may soon face ID checks to access adult material on the internet, according to discussions between the government and groups from the beleaguered UK adult trade.

A scheme proposed by the industry group, The Digital Policy Alliance,  would see adult sites verifying visitors’ identity with organisations such as banks, credit reference agencies or even the NHS.  Adult websites would offer visitors a choice of identity providers — from Vodafone to the Department for Work and Pensions — to vouch for their age, O’Connell said. The user would sign in to the provider with a username and password, and a check would be run against the data it holds. To boost privacy, checks would pass through an anonymising hub . This strips identifying information in both directions of the request. In theory, the provider never knows the reasons for the checks, and the site never knows users’ true identities, just that they are over 18.

It comes ahead of an expected new law demanding age checks for online pornography and threatening a block on any sites which don’t comply. It is a key Conservative pledge. But critics say the plans are a privacy nightmare. Some warn they are a step towards Chinese-style internet restrictions. Myles Jackman, a lawyer specialising in obscenity law said:

This is cutting-edge censorship. We are now becoming the world leaders in censorship. And we are being watched very closely from abroad.

British-based sites have had to make stringent age checks since 2010, using credit cards, the electoral roll and credit reference agencies. It’s a quite intrusive means of identifying age, said Chris Ratcliff, chief executive of Portland TV, which runs Television X. Many customers simply go elsewhere, he said. Ratcliff, a key member of the DPA’s age verification working group, expects government action by the end of the year.

According to Tory proposals, a regulator would have the power to block sites that don’t use stringent enough checks. Observers believe this will be the Authority for Television on Demand (Atvod), which currently enforces age-check and obscenity rules on UK streaming video sites. The result of ATVOD’s ‘enforcement’ is that it is near impossible to run a UK site within the current rules and has led to the UK industry losing out to foreign operations.

The legal situation is also confused. Ratcliff said it was unclear whether new rules would make content not behind age filters illegal. Jackman added:

As a matter of international law, I don’t understand how it can possibly work. And I don’t understand how it can work under the Obscene Publications Act. It’s just being made up as they go along.

The stub of the UK adult trade that has been persevering with ludicrous British censorship required, eg Ofcom rules only allowing softcore TV, believe that acceptable age verification may be a benefit, but this seems unlikely. As with eBay, Amazon, Apple, and Google, once governments start making life tough with onerous rules and red tape, only the largest operation have large enough economies of scale to handle the burdensome expenses, so creating a natural monopoly. and as the US has the largest markets, so they can grab the lion’s share of the market.

And as for the kids, there’s already enough porn knocking around on hard drives to keep them happy for decades. Perhaps they will just go back to swapping porn mags, or themodern dayequivalent,64GByte memory sticks with enough porn to last a year.And as a final thought, It is not clear that the security services would be very impressed if half the population of Britain were forced into using VPNs and the like. It would make life an awful lot tougher to keep track of the bad guys.

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 Parliament Watch at MelonFarmers.co.uk

elspeth howe The Consumer Rights Bill is progressing through Parliament is currently at the report stage in the house of Lords. It will next be debated on 24th November.Elspeth Howe has again proposed her clause requiring age verification for adult content. It has been kicked out several times in the past as the government recognises the need to work with the telecoms industry rather than impose onerous new laws (of course the government hasn’t shown the same pragmatic approach to the adult internet industry).

The new clause was proposed by Baroness Elspeth Howe, Baroness King, Lord Cormack and Baroness Floella Benjamin. It is titled amendment 50D.

“Duty to provide an internet service that protects children from digital content

(1)     Internet service providers must provide to subscribers an internet access service which excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.

(2)     Where mobile telephone operators provide a telephone service to subscribers which includes an internet access service, they must ensure this service excludes adult content unless all the conditions of subsection (3) have been fulfilled.

(3)     The conditions are–

(a)   the subscriber “opts-in” to subscribe to a service that includes adult content;

(b)   the subscriber is aged 18 or over; and

(c)   the provider of the service has an age verification policy which meets the standards set out by OFCOM in subsection (4) and which has been used to confirm that the subscriber is aged 18 or over before a user is able to access adult content.

(4)     It shall be the duty of OFCOM, to set, and from time to time to review and revise, standards for the–

(a)   filtering of adult content in line with the standards set out in section 319 of the Communications Act 2003 (OFCOM’s standards code);

(b)   age verification policies to be used under subsection (3) before a user is able to access adult content; and

(c)   filtering of content by age or subject category by providers of internet access services and mobile phone operators.

(5)     The standards set out by OFCOM under subsection (4) must be contained in one or more codes.

(6)     Before setting standards under subsection (5), OFCOM must publish, in such a manner as they think fit, a draft of the proposed code containing those standards.

(7)     After publishing the draft code and before setting the standards, OFCOM must consult relevant persons and organisations.

(8)     It shall be the duty of OFCOM to establish procedures for the handling and resolution of complaints in a timely manner about the observance of standards set under subsection (4), including complaints about incorrect filtering of content.

(9)     OFCOM may designate any body corporate to carry out its duties under this section in whole or in part.

(10)     OFCOM may not designate a body under subsection (9) unless, as respects that designation, they are satisfied that the body–

(a)   is a fit and proper body to be designated;

(b)   has consented to being designated;

(c)   has access to financial resources that are adequate to ensure the effective performance of its functions under this section; and

(d)   is sufficiently independent of providers of internet access services and mobile phone operators.

(11)     In this section, internet service providers and mobile telephone operators shall at all times be held harmless of any claims or proceedings, whether civil or criminal, providing that at the relevant time, the internet access provider or the mobile telephone operator–

(a)   was following the standards and code set out by OFCOM in subsection (4); and

(b)   acting in good faith.

(12)     For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in subsections (1) and (2) prevents providers of internet access services and mobile phone operators from providing additional levels of filtering content.

(13)     In this section–

“adult content” means an internet access service that contains harmful and offensive materials from which persons under the age of eighteen are protected;

“harmful and offensive materials” has the same meaning as in section 3 of the Communications Act 2003 (general duties of OFCOM);

“material from which persons under the age of eighteen are protected” means material specified in the OFCOM standards under section 319(2)(a) of the Communications Act 2003 (OFCOM’s standards code);

“opts-in” means a subscriber notifies the service provider of his or her consent to subscribe to a service that includes adult content.”