New Zealand could follow the United Kingdom in bringing in age restrictions for
online pornography and blocking websites which refuse to comply.
Department of Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin, who also holds the children's portfolio, says young people are being bombarded by internet pornography and she wants censorship laws to be strengthened.
This is a really, really big issue to New Zealand and we are going to have a serious conversation about it, she told the Herald. Martin supports the approach of the United Kingdom, which has ambitious and controversial plans to introduce mandatory
age verification for pornographic websites later this year.
She made the comments after the Chief Censor began a major piece of research on New Zealand teenagers' online pornography habits. We're pretty excited about it, Chief Censor David Shanks said.
We think it's going to give us some potentially world-leading data on the New Zealand situation and teens and pornography. With this research our aim is to get solid evidence about the experiences and perspectives of young people on the table so
there can be an informed debate.
In our view policy in this area does need some consideration, in terms of how do you regulate use and access to porn in the digital environment. The question there is . . . when the average age to get a smartphone is 10 and a half to 11 years
old, what sort of tools and restrictions can we really place on access to material that's widely available on the internet?
The Office of Film and Literature Classification began the survey last week of 2300 people aged between 14 and 17. It asks if teenagers look at online pornography, how often, what sort of content, why they are looking at it, and how they are
viewing it. The survey is expected to be completed in December.
Martin said the Chief Censor's research was vital work, though she is already intent on changes:
I have already had conversations with the Chief Censor with regard to a particular drive of mine to make sure we as a nation do something about what is the bombardment of pornography and the easy access to pornography that our young people are
Considering our censorship laws were pre-internet, this is an area that we have left for a long time without addressing and I think we need to address it.
Martin said she was not interested in wholesale bans on online content because they did not work. But she supported the UK Government's approach, saying she was interested in any policy which helped to protect young people. She added:
I would really like to watch how they implement it and see what are the challenges for them.
MPs left behind unfinished business when they broke for summer recess, and we aren't talking about Brexit negotiations. The rollout of mandatory age verification (AV) technology for adult websites is being held up once again while the Government
mulls over final details. AV tech will create highly sensitive databases of the public's porn watching habits, and Open Rights Groups submitted a
warning the proposed privacy protections are woefully inadequate. The Government's hesitation could be a sign they are receptive to our concerns, but we expect their final guidance will still treat privacy as an afterthought. MPs need to
understand what's at stake before they are asked to approve AV guidelines after summer.
AV tools will be operated by private companies, but if the technology gets hacked and the personal data of millions of British citizens is breached, the Government will be squarely to blame. By issuing weak guidelines, the Government is begging
for a Cambridge Analytica-style data scandal. If this technology fails to protect user privacy, everybody loses. Businesses will be damaged (just look at Facebook), the Government will be embarrassed, and the over 20 million UK residents who view
porn could have their private sexual preferences exposed. It's in everybody's interest to fix this. The draft guidance lacks even the basic privacy protections required for other digital tools like credit card payments and email services.
Meanwhile, major data breaches are rocking international headlines on a regular basis. AV tech needs a dose of common sense.
Internet censors of the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) have instructed telecommunications companies and ISPs to block a list
of pornography websites. Godfrey Mutabazi, Executive Director at the UCC, has said that they have identified 17 popular local and 10 international pornography websites which they, as the UCC, have asked ISP's and telecommunications companies to
The commission received the list of porn sites from the Pornography Control Committee. The committee has established that the list of the websites attached hereto is currently streaming pornography to Uganda in breach of section 13 of the
Anti-Pornography Act, 2014.
Mutabazi has warned that telecom companies and internet providers risk penalties if they don't comply with the new directive.
Perhaps the recent introduction of high taxes on social media websites has pushed Ugandans onto the next best internet freebie, porn.
The Crown Prosecution Service has just published proposals to end obscenity prosecutions of images and videos of fisting, golden showers,
squirting and bondage.
The key proposed prosecution policy update:
When considering whether the content of an article is “obscene”, prosecutors
should distinguish between:
Content showing or realistically depicting criminal conduct (whether
non-consensual activity, or consensual activity where serious harm is
caused), which is likely to be obscene;
Content showing or realistically depicting other conduct which is lawful,
which is unlikely to be obscene.
And there is a consultation question to ask about this new policy
Question 2 Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that prosecutors must exercise real caution when dealing with the moral nature of acts not criminalized by law, and that the showing or realistic depiction of
sexual activity / pornography which does not constitute acts or conduct contrary to the criminal law is unlikely to be obscene?
16. The following conduct (notwithstanding previous guidance indicating otherwise) will not likely fall to be prosecuted under the Act:
Activity involving bodily substances (including urine, vomit, blood and faeces)
Infliction of pain / torture
Bondage / restraint
Placing objects into the urethra
Any other sexual activity not prohibited by law
It is consensual;
No serious harm is caused;
It is not otherwise inextricably linked with other criminality; and
The likely audience is not under 18 or otherwise vulnerable.
More to follow after reading the document but the new policy seems to expand on the concept of obscenity to incorporate modern issues such as revenge porn, or non consensual publications eg upskirting.
Maybe this change of heart is related to a delay in age verification guidelines for the new BBFC internet porn censorship regime. It would seem very closely related.
David Austin as penned what looks like an official BBFC campaigning piece trying to drum up support for
the upcoming internet porn censorship regime. Disgracefully the article is hidden behind a paywall and is restricted to Telegraph paying subscribers.
Are children protected by endangering their parents or their marriage?
The article is very much a one sided piece, focusing almost entirely on the harms to children. It says nothing about the extraordinary dangers faced by adults when handing over personal identifying data to internet companies. Not a word about the
dangers of being blackmailed, scammed or simply outed to employers, communities or wives, where the standard punishment for a trivial transgression of PC rules is the sack or divorce.
Austin speaks of the scale of the internet business and the scope of the expected changes. He writes:
There are around five million pornographic websites across the globe. Most of them have no effective means of stopping children coming across their content. It's no great surprise, therefore, that Government statistics show that 1.4 million
children in the UK visited one of these websites in one month.
The BBFC will be looking for a step change in the behaviour of the adult industry. We have been working with the industry to ensure that many websites carry age-verification when the law comes into force.
Millions of British adults watch pornography online. So age-verification will have a wide reach. But it's not new. It's been a requirement for many years for age-restricted goods and services, including some UK hosted pornographic material.
I guess at this last point readers will be saying I never knew that. I've never come across age verification ever before. But the point here is these previous rules devastated the British online porn industry and the reason people don't ever come
across it, is that there are barely any British sites left.
Are children being protected by impoverishing their parents?
Not that any proponents of age verification could care less about British people being able to make money. Inevitably the new age verification will further compound the foreign corporate monopoly control on yet another internet industry.
Having lorded over a regime that threatens to devastate lives, careers and livelihoods, Austin ironically notes that it probably won't work anyway:
The law is not a silver bullet. Determined, tech-savvy teenagers may find ways around the controls, and not all pornography online will be age-restricted. For example, the new law does not require pornography on social media platforms to be
placed behind age-verification controls.
The government is braced for criticism next week over an anticipated delay in its prospective curbs on under 18s' access to hardcore porn sites.
The current timetable culminating in the implementation of UK porn censorship by the end of the year required that the final censorship guidelines are presented to MPs before they go on holiday on Thursday. They will then be ready to approve them
when they return to work in the autumn. It sound like they won't be ready for publishing by this Thursday.
The BBFC noted that they were due to send the results of the public consultation along with the BBFC censorship rules to the government by late May of this year so presumably the government is still pondering what to do.
'Best practice' just like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
Back in April when the BBFC initiated its rather naive draft rules for public consultation its prose tried to suggest that we can trust age verifiers with our most sensitive porn browsing data because they will voluntarily follow 'best practice'.
But in light of the major industry player, in this case Facebook, allowing Cambridge Analytica to so dramatically abuse our personal data, the hope that these people will follow best practice' is surely forlorn.
And there was the implementation of GDPR. The BBFC seemed to think that this was all that was needed to keep our data safe. But when t comes down to it all GDPR seems to have done is to train us, like Pavlov's dogs, to endlessly tick the consent
box for all these companies to do what the hell they like with our data.
Then there was a nice little piece of research this week that revealed that network level ISP filtering of porn has next to no impact on preventing young porn seekers from obtaining their kicks. The research notes seems to suggest that it is not
enough to block porn one lad because he has 30 mates whose house he can round to surf the web there, or else it only takes a few lads to be able to download porn and it will soon be circulated to the whole community on a memory stick or whatever.
Mass Buy in
I guess the government is finding it tough to find age verification ideas that are both convenient for adult users, whilst remaining robust about preventing access by the under 18s. I think the governments needs to find a solution that will
achieve a mass buy in by adult users. If the adults don't want to play ball with the age verification process, then the first fall back position is for them to use a VPN. I know that from my use of VPNS that they are very good, and once you turn
it on then I find it gets left on all day. I am sure millions of people using VPNs would not go down well with the security services on the trail of more serious crimes than under age porn viewing.
I think the most likely age verification method proposed to date that has a chance of a mass buy-in is the AVSecure system of anonymously buying a porn access card from a local shop, and using a PIN, perhaps typed in once a day. Then they are able
to browse without further hassle on all participating websites. But I think it would require a certain pragmatism from government to accept this idea, as it would be so open to over 18s buying a card and then selling the PIN to under 18s, or
perhaps sons nicking their Dad's PINS when they see the card lying around, (or even perhaps installing a keyboard logger to nick the password).
The government would probably like something more robust where PINS have to be matched to people's proven ID. But I think pron users would be stupid to hand over their ID to anyone on the internet who can monitor porn use. The risks are enormous,
reputational damage, blackmail, fraud etc, and in this nasty PC world, the penalty of the most trivial of moral transgressions is to lose your job or even career.
A path to failure
The government is also setting out on a path when it can do nothing but fail. The Telegraph piece mentioned above is already lambasting the government for not applying the rules to social media websites such as Twitter, that host a fair bit of
porn. The Telegraph comments:
Children will be free to watch explicit X-rated sex videos on social media sites because of a loophole in a new porn crackdown, Britain's chief censor has admitted.
David Austin, chief executive of the BBFC, has been charged by ministers with enforcing new laws that require people to prove they are over 18 to access porn sites. However, writing for telegraph.co.uk, Mr Austin admitted it would not be a silver
bullet as online porn on sites such as Facebook and YouTube would escape the age restrictions. Social media companies will not be required to carry age-verification for pornographic content on their platforms. He said it was a matter for
government to review this position.
Nobody seems to have heard much about the progress of the BBFC consultation about the process to censor internet porn in the UK.
The sketchy timetable laid out so far suggests that the result of the consultation should be published prior to the Parliamentary recess scheduled for 26th July. Presumably this would provide MPs with some light reading over their summer hols
ready for them to approve as soon as the hols are over.
Maybe this publication may have to be hurried along though, as pesky MPs are messing up Theresa May's plans for a non-Brexit, and she would like to send them packing a week early before they can cause trouble. ( Update
18th July . The early holidays idea has now been shelved).
The BBFC published meeting minutes this week that mentions the consultation:
The public consultation on the draft Guidance on Age Verification Arrangements and the draft Guidance on Ancillary Service Providers closed on 23 April. The BBFC received 620 responses, 40 from organisations and 580 from individuals. Many of the
individual responses were encouraged by a campaign organised by the Open Rights Group.
Our proposed response to the consultation will be circulated to the Board before being sent to DCMS on 21 May.
So assuming that the response was sent to the government on the appointed day then someone has been sitting on the results for quite a long time now.
Meanwhile its good to see that people are still thinking about the monstrosity that is coming our way. Ethical porn producer Erica Lust has been speaking to News Internationalist. She comments on the way the new law will compound MindGeek's
monopolitistc dominance of the online porn market:
The age verification laws are going to disproportionately affect smaller low-traffic sites and independent sex workers who cannot cover the costs of installing age verification tools.
It will also impact smaller sites by giving MindGeek even more dominance in the adult industry. This is because the BBFC draft guidance does not enforce sites to offer more than one age verification product. So, all of MindGeeks sites (again, 90%
of the mainstream porn sites) will only offer their own product; Age ID. The BBFC have also stated that users do not have to verify their age on each visit if access is restricted by password or a personal ID number. So users visiting a MindGeek
site will only have to verify their age once using AgeID and then will be able to login to any complying site without having to verify again. Therefore, viewers will be less likely to visit competitor sites not using the AgeID technology, and
simultaneously competitor sites will feel pressured to use AgeID to protect themselves from losing viewers.
Moralists campaigners of Morality in Media (now calling themselves the National Center on Sexual Exploitation) is well impressed
by the US streaming service Roku. The campaigners write:
A popular media streaming company is being called out for helping the public gain secretive access to pornography channels.
Dawn Hawkins of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation says Roku has a backdoor to private, sexually explicit channels while other competitors have stayed away from hardcore pornography.
They are facilitating access to hardcore pornography channels - hundreds of private and hidden channels - and none of the other streaming companies allow this.
Hawkins says the company is not even hiding its affiliation with hardcore porn. In fact, she says, the porn industry advertises the accessibility via Roku.
National Center helps parents protect their children from objectionable content so it has a step-by-step guide to help parents block content. But there is one streaming service without parental controls -- Roku.
The war on drill rages on. Some of its most popular videos have been banned from YouTube. 1011, a prominent rap group, is now banned
from making music with any mention of death or injury, and must inform police about all upcoming videos and shows.
In June, the police gained a court order that effectively bans drill music being made without their permission. However, even if YouTube has deemed the genre as too explicit or dangerous, it's not too explicit for Pornhub, where some drill videos
are now being uploaded.
DJ and presenter Tim Westwood's broadcasting of drill artists is turning up on Pornhub. His Crib Sessions with BSIDE , 1011 , and Zone have appeared on the adult film site, after being pulled down from YouTube, alongside a host of 1011's music
videos which made their way onto the site over the weekend.
The winners of the 2018 XRCO Awards have been announced.
The two biggest winners, by little surprise, were Angela White and Greg Lansky, who picked up three trophies each including Female Performer of the Year for White and Best Director (Non-Features) for Lansky.