Kevin Bennett, acting CEO of the religious moralist campaign group Premier Christianity, said:
The government is currently considering how best to review laws around pornography. Premier would like to see new regulations
that make online platforms and websites more responsible for the content they host.
The Online Safety Act is a welcome development. However, while it limits children's exposure to pornography, it doesn't regulate it. Illegal
explicit content will continue unchecked, which means children will still be at risk of exposure to harmful images. Also, young and vulnerable adults with addictive personalities will continue to be damaged by abusive content.
Hard copy videos containing strong sexual content are rated R18 by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and can only be supplied through a licensed sex shop. The BBFC is the main statutory regulator of pornography but their powers only extend to offline distribution. If the BBFC refuses to classify (because, for example, it contains illegal content) it cannot be published. However, the BBFC has no regulatory or enforcement powers over online pornography.
At a recent inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Commercial Sexual Exploitation, the BBFC said:
Regrettably, equivalent protections do not currently exist on the internet,
where hard-core pornography (including illegal content and content the BBFC would refuse to classify on harm grounds) is freely accessible to viewers of all ages.
The online pornography industry has been unregulated
for too long. Pornography has proven, harmful effects on loving and meaningful relationships and can form destructive addictions. Pornography consumption leads to the dehumanisation and objectification of women and can fuel sexual violence.
The government should regulate the supply of pornography as well as the demand for it.
It is welcome that the government is now undertaking an internal review, and we expect a consultation next year - but we
don't yet know when and what it is prepared to legislate for. Advert
It is imperative that action is taken soon -- certainly before a general election is called. Pornography should be acknowledged as a form of sexual exploitation,
and routes for redress for those harmed by pornography provided. Third party facilitators will then be more mindful of their contribution to the industry and how accountable they are prepared to be.
The existing outdated patchwork
of laws governing pornography need urgently updating. But it must be more than a tidying up exercise. It is critical that reforms are introduced to ensure that pornography is regulated consistently both online and offline.