British MPs have claimed that that measures to reform and regulate the porn industry have faltered, putting vulnerable people at risk.
Last year attempts to introduce age verification systems into open access porn sites to stop children being able to
access extreme online content stalled, and MPs are warning that regulation proposed in a new online harms bill, currently at consultation stage in parliament, does not go far enough.
Tracy Brabin, the shadow culture secretary, whinged:
The online harms bill doesn't go far enough. We have to get control over this industry, said We have a duty of care to young people whose videos are being shared who might not want them shared, and ... to potential
victims of sex trafficking and rape.
MPs from both sides of the political divide agree. Conservative MP Maria Miller, chair of the women and equalities committee, said: These are hugely important issues and [the online harms bill] is
taking too long, we have been talking about this for two years now. She said the promised duty of care should include a way to hold companies to account if unlawful material is posted.
Activist Laila Mickelwait, part of a group of activists at Exodus
Cry, told the Guardian: Pornhub handing out 'free' premium content is a way for them to cash in on those around the world impacted by the pandemic. Pornhub is collecting an incredible amount of user data including IP addresses by allowing web beacons and
other special information targeting technology on all user devices, and monetising it for their own gain.
The popular porn website Pornhub has made its premium services free till April 3. Initially the offer was restricted to covid hotspots Italy, Spain, and France, but noe the service has been made free all over the world.
PornHub has has also announced
that it will be donating a portion of its income to helping out with the coronavirus crisis.
Pornhub also released a chart showing how porn viewing has increased at the time of lockdown.
Adult studio Evil Angel announced that the company is temporarily suspending production, effective Monday, March 16.
Evil Angel founder John Stagliano stated, The spread of the COVID-19 virus is unknown at this point. Evil Angel is stopping production
as of Monday morning, pending testing being available to performers. One thing the industry does well is testing. The company stated that its paramount consideration is the safety of performers and crew members.
A toned down version of a Utah bill requiring nonsense warning labels on pornography emerged from the Senate on Friday, one vote away from heading to the governor's desk.
Under the modified legislation, an adult content website would have to display a
now shortened , one-sentence statement: Exposing minors to obscene material could damage or negatively impact them. Alternatively, the website could embed in its metadata the searchable text, utahobscenitywarning.
Those who violate the mandate could
face fines of up to $2,500 per infraction. But pornography distributors wouldn't face repercussions for the occasional slip-up -- as long as they could prove they'd complied with the warning label mandate at least 75% of the time over the past six
The original bill did not include the metadata allowance and required a much lengthier denunciation of pornography that warned the material could impair brain and emotional development and cause low self-esteem and relationship problems if
shown to minors.
The Legislation was passed 20 - 6 ans now heads to the House, which will consider the changes made in the Senate.
The bill has now passed both the Utah House and Senate.
The Free Speech Coalition (FSC), a US adult trade group, has released a statement regarding Utah HB243, which would require all adult content in the state to include a warning label:
The Utah legislature is attempting to pass a new
law, HB243, that would require all obscene material distributed in the state to come with a five-second warning label stating that such material may damage or negatively impact minors. Anyone who does not comply can be sued by the Attorney General of
Utah, for a penalty of $2500 per violation.
Despite changes to the bill, HB243 remains a land mine of First Amendment issues. Affixing a state-mandated warning to an adult film, which enjoys First Amendment protections, is
fundamentally different from doing the same to a food product, which does not.
The bill's author, Rep. Brady Brammer, says that the labelling law will only apply to obscene content. However, there is no established legal
definition for obscenity 204 each case would have to be worked out through a lengthy and expensive legal process. However, the chilling effect on legal speech would be substantial.
HB243 is remarkably similar to a 2005 Utah
labeling bill, HB260, which was struck down in 2012 after a costly seven-year court battle. In the ensuing case, Florence v. Shetloff, a federal judge ruled that Utah could prosecute a person in communication with a specific minor, but could not
prosecute generally accessible websites. We don't know why the State of Utah would want to waste precious time and taxpayer dollars fighting an already-decided battle.
FSC supports the limiting of adult content to adults. That's
why we've worked closely with adult content filters to register adult content, and why adult sites carry the Restricted to Adults Label, which allows them to be easily blocked. If Rep. Brammer wants to limit access of adult content by minors, consumer
filters are a much more effective solution 204 and one that doesn't trample First Amendment protections.
About two Hundred anti-porn campaigners protested outside Pornhub's headquarters in Montreal on Sunday. They were calling for the platform to be shut down for a supposed role in sex trafficking.
The gathering coincided with International Women's Day.
Among those in attendance was Megan Walker, the executive director of the London Abused Women's Centre, whilst the demonstration was organized by Lalia Mickelwait, director of abolition at Exodus Cry, a group devoted to the abolition of sex
Mickelwait also started an online petition against Pornhub that has about 400,000 signatures.
Utah's lawmakers are calling for mandatory warning labels on all pornography distributed within the state.
House Bill 243, sponsored by Representative Brady Brammer requires the following warning label:
minors to pornography is known to the state of Utah to cause negative impacts to brain development, emotional development and the ability to maintain intimate relationships. Such exposure may lead to harmful and addictive sexual behavior, low
self-esteem, and the improper objectification of and sexual violence towards others, among numerous other harms.
Perhaps porn producers could add the note:
However it should be noted that any harms
supposedly caused by porn are as nothing compared to the harm that religion causes around the world.
The enforcement mechanism is based upon anti-porn activists complaining to the state's attorney general.
include the clear display of the warning label for 15 seconds on all videos, along with a prominent display on printed publications and websites, with the 15 second display requirement valid for all online videos and individual images.
The move is a
follow-up to 2016's declaration by Utah lawmakers that porn constitutes a public health crisis.
Comment: The bill is unsupported by scientific facts, and very clearly unconstitutional
The Free Speech Coalition representing the US adult trade has issued a statement responding to the Utah proposal:
A proposed bill in the Utah legislature would require adult content to carry a warning attesting to the
alleged dangers of viewing, or face a $2,500 fine. The bill is unsupported by scientific facts, and very clearly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that such requirements are compelled speech, and a violation of First Amendment
rights. The government can not force its citizens or organizations to convey a specific message, especially one political in nature.
The proponent, State Representative Brady Brammer, likens his proposal -- which would mandate a
fifteen-second clip before any video featuring nudity -- to warning labels on toxic chemicals. However, toxic chemicals are highly regulated, and not a form of speech. They possess no First Amendment protections. Videos, photographs, and live
performances are speech, and their creators are protected. (As for the dangers, the bill quotes no science or studies -- in fact, there is no credible evidence to support the legislator's claims.)
When it comes to adults,
consumption of adult entertainment has been shown to decrease stress, increase tolerance and produce more egalitarian attitudes toward women. Over the past two decades, the availability to adult content has skyrocketed, and yet the rates of divorce, teen
pregnancy and sexual assault have all fallen dramatically.
The scope of the bill is dangerously broad and would open not just explicit content, but mere nudity. All manner of film, video, and social media content could be subject
to prosecution. Under the bill, individual citizens are financially rewarded for bringing lawsuits against such content -- from a Game of Thrones clip to a Kim Kardashian selfie -- if it shows so much as a bared breast and does not carry a warning of the
We have no doubt that should this bill be passed, the likely targets would be a long list of targets social conservatives regularly deem obscene -- from feminist art and LGBTQ film to comprehensive sex education texts.
The State of Utah and its taxpayers would be on the hook for millions of dollars defending a law that is ultimately indefensible.
Adult content should be limited to adults, but this bill accomplishes little in that regard.
Instead, it punishes speech that is not in lock step with the moral views of the bill's proponent. If Rep. Brammer wants to keep minors from accessing adult material, he should work on a proven effective solution: helping parents be more involved in
their children's online lives and installing effective filters on their devices.
Update: Passed committee
12th February 2020.
Utah's House Judiciary Committee voted 9-2 in favor of the legislation, HB243 ,
after several strongly worded speeches about the harms of pornographic material.
Rep. Eric Hutchings said: I'm sorry, but if you want to threaten my kids, I'm not playing nice anymore,
And Rep. Travis Seegmiller said the bill's
proposed fine of up to $2,500 per violation didn't seem steep enough.
Representatives voted 60-12 in favor of HB243 ,
which seeks to curtail the prominence of pornography in the state -- and particularly its reach to children -- by requiring the inclusion of a warning label on printed materials or a 15-second advisory ahead of online content.
Failing to do so could
result in a $2,500 fine for each violation.
A bill that would impose civil penalties on pornography distributors who fail to put a warning label on obscene material passed through the Utah Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday.
However free speech
concerns have downgraded its purpose somewhat. The bill has been amended to replace a warning about 'pornography' , to be a warning about 'obscene material'.
The reason for the change is that obscenity is a higher legal standard and does not enjoy
constitutional protections. Bill sponsor Rep. Brady Brammersaid legal counsel has said that a narrowly tailored warning requirement like this would not violate the Constitution with respect to free speech.
However surely mainstream porn is not
considered to be obscene so the warning we be about material that is not generally available anyway.
A Mississippi legislator has introduced two bills that would ban all online porn completely.
The bills authored by Republican Representative Tracy Arnold would not only ban porn in Mississippi but also would create a coalition of Southern states where
the porn ban would apply. Other states would need to join in the legislation, but among those Arnold's bill targets would be Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia and Oklahoma.
The states would join to create
what one of the bills, HB 1116 , calls an Area of Moral Decency.
Arnold's companion bill, HB 1120 , would bar social media platforms from carrying advertisements for obscene and pornographic content.
Oliver Dowden was appointed Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on 13 February 2020.
He was previously Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office, and before that, Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office. He was
elected Conservative MP for Hertsmere in May 2015.
The previous Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan will now be spending more time with her family.
There's been no suggestions that Dowden will diverge from the government path on setting out a
new internet censorship regime as outlined in its OnlIne Harms white paper.
Perhaps another parliamentary appointment that may be relevant is that Julian Knight has taken over the Chair of the DCMS Select Committee, the Parliamentary scrutiny body
overseeing the DCMS.
Knight seems quite keen on the internet censorship idea and will surely be spurring on the DCMS.
And finally one more censorship appointment was announced by the Government. The government has appointed Ofcom to
regulate video-sharing platforms under the audiovisual media services directive, which aims to reduce harmful content on these sites. That will provide quicker protection for some harms and activities and will act as a stepping stone to the full online
harms regulatory framework.
Matt Warman, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced:
We also yesterday appointed Ofcom to regulate video-sharing platforms under the
audiovisual media services directive, which aims to reduce harmful content on these sites. That will provide quicker protection for some harms and activities and will act as a stepping stone to the full online harms regulatory framework.
In Fact this censorship process is set to start in September 2020 and in fact Ofcom have already produced their solution that shadows the age verification requirements of the Digital Economy Act but now may need rethinking as some of the enforcement
mechanisms, such as ISP blocking, are no longer on the table. The mechanism also only applies to British based online adult companies providing online video. of which there are hardly any left, after previously being destroyed by the ATVOD regime.
A newly proposed law in the state of Tennessee would block all internet porn sites, unless a user chooses to opt in to porn by going through a series of steps and typing in a unique password. The bill was introduced last week by Republican state
representative James Van Huss.
HB 2294 would require ISPs to provide parental controls that block access to a specific website or website category, and the category of pornography must be blocked by default.
Though Van Russ's Tennessee bill is
titled the Safer Internet for Minors Act , the text of the bill contains no specific means for restricting access to the required parental controls to users over 18, and no age verification requirement.
The most immediately interesting point is that the BBFC has elected not to promote the research that they commissioned and not to publish it on their website. Maybe this simply reflects that the BBFC no longer has the job of internet porn censor. The
job looks set to be handed over to Ofcom as part of the government's upcoming online harms bill.
The study by Revealing Reality combined a statistically representative survey of secondary school-age children with in-depth interviews and focus groups
with parents. It found that adult material was a prominent feature in British childhood. Almost half of teenagers aged 16 and 17 said they had recently seen pornography, with the researchers believing this figure is substantially lower than the true
figure because of respondents' awkwardness when faced with the question.
While 75% of parents did not believe their children would have watched pornography, the majority of these parents' children told the researchers that they had viewed adult
The report also found that while parents thought their sons would watch pornography for sexual pleasure, many erroneously believed their daughters would primarily see pornography by accident. It said: This is contrary to the qualitative
research findings showing that many girls were also using pornography for sexual pleasure.
The researchers said that one side effect of early exposure to online pornography is that gay, lesbian or bisexual respondents often understood their
sexuality at a younger age. It was common for these respondents to start by watching heterosexual pornography, only to realise that they did not find this sexually gratifying and then gradually move to homosexual pornography.
The research very
much affirms the government campaign to seek restrictions on porn access for children and notes that such measures as age verification requirements are unsurprisingly supported by parents.
However the research includes a very interesting section
on the thoughts of 16 and 17 year olds who have passed the age of consent and unsurprisingly use porn on just about the same way as adults who have nominally passed the official, but not the biological and hormonal, age of maturity.
uses the term 'young people' to mean 16 - 18 year olds (included in the survey as speaking about their views and experiences as 16 and 17 year olds). The report notes:
While recognising the benefits of preventing
younger children accessing pornography, young people had some concerns about age-verification restrictions. For example, some young people were worried that, in the absence of other adequate sources of sex education, they would struggle to find ways to
learn about sex without pornography.
This was felt particularly strongly by LGB respondents in the qualitative research, who believed that pornography had helped them to understand their sexuality and learn about different types
of sexual behaviours that they weren't taught in school.
Some young people also felt that the difference in the age of consent for having sex20416204and the age at which age-verification is targeted20418204was contradictory. They
also struggled to understand why, for instance, they could serve in the armed forces and have a family and yet be blocked from watching pornography.
Young people also seemed well versed in knowing methods of working around age
verification and website blocking:
The majority of parents and young people (aged 16 to 18) interviewed in the qualitative research felt that older children would be able to circumvent age-verification by a range of
potential online workarounds. Additionally, many 16- to 18-year-olds interviewed in the qualitative work who could not identify a workaround at present felt they would be able to find a potential method for circumventing age-verification if required.
Some of the most commonly known workarounds that older children thought may potentially negate age-verification included:
Using a VPN to appear as if you are accessing adult content from elsewhere in the world
Torrenting files by downloading the data in chunks
(the ‘onion’ router) to disguise the user’s location
By accessing the dark web
By using proxy websites
Maybe the missed another obvious workaround, sharing porn amongst themselves via internet messaging or memory sticks.