The Culture Secretary has vowed to end the Wild West for tech giants amid anger at claims data from Facebook users was harvested to be used by political campaigns.
Matt Hancock warned social media companies that they could be slapped with new
rules and regulations to rein them in.
It comes amid fury at claims the Facebook data of around 50 million users was taken without their permission and used by Cambridge Analytica.
The firm played a key role in mapping out the behaviour of
voters in the run-up to the 2016 US election and the EU referendum campaign earlier that year.
Tory MP Damian Collins, chairman of the Culture select committee, has said he wants to haul Mark Zuckerberg to Parliament to explain himself.
Tech companies store the data of billions of people around the world - giving an unparalleled insight into the lives and thoughts of people. And they must do more to show they are storing the data responsibly.
Update: They'll have to put a price on his head if they want Zuckerberg hauled in front of a judge
Mark Zuckerberg has turned down the request
to appear in front of the a UK parliamentary committee for a good grilling. In response to the request, Facebook has suggested one of two executives could speak to parliament: Chris Cox, the company' chief product officer, who is in charge of the
Facebook news feed, or Mike Schroepfer, the chief technology officer, who heads up the developer platform.
The Culture select committee chair, Damian Collins said:
It is absolutely astonishing that Mark
Zuckerberg is not prepared to submit himself to questioning in front of a parliamentary or congressional hearing, given these are questions of fundamental importance and concern to his users, as well as to this inquiry. I would certainly urge him to
think again if he has any care for people that use his company's services.
Facebook said on Wednesday it would end its
partnerships with several large data brokers who help advertisers target people on the social network. Facebook has for years given advertisers the option of targeting their ads based on data collected by companies such as Acxiom Corp and Experian PLC.
Facebook has also adjusted the privacy settings on its service, giving users control over their personal information in fewer taps. This move also reflects new European privacy laws soon to come in force.
Christopher Wylie, the whistle blower who revealed lots of interesting stuff about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, has been speaking to Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee about what Facebook gets up to.
He told the committee
that he believes the social media giant is able to decipher whether someone is out in a crowd of people, in the office or at home.
Asked by Conservative MP Damian Collins whether Facebook can listen to what people are saying to shape their
advertising, Wylie said they use the smartphone app microphone for environmental purposes.
My understanding generally of how companies use it... not just Facebook, but generally other apps that pull audio, is for
So if, for example, you have a television playing versus if you're in a busy place with a lot of people talking versus a work environment.
It's not to say they're listening to what
you're saying. It's not natural language processing. That would be hard to scale.
It is interesting to note that he said companies don't listen into conversations because they can't for the moment. Butt he explanation is phrased such
that they will listen to conversations just as soon as the technology allows.
data is safe with us. We will follow 'best practices', honest!
The BBFC has launched its public consultation about its arrangements for censoring porn on the internet.
The document was clearly written before the Cambridge Analytica data abuse scandal. The BBFC gullibility in accepting the word of age
verification providers and porn websites, that they will look after your data, now rather jars with what we see going on in the real world.
After all European data protection laws allow extensive use of your data, and there are absolutely no laws
governing what foreign websites can do with your identity data and porn browsing history.
I think that under the current arrangements, if a Russian website were to hand over identity data and porn browsing history straight over to the Kremlin
dirty tricks department, then as long as under 18s would be prohibited, then the BBFC would have to approve that website's age verification arrangements.
Anyway there will be more debate on the subject over the coming month.
Consultation on draft Guidance on Age-Verification Arrangements and draft Guidance on Ancillary Service Providers
Under section 14(1) of the Digital Economy Act 2017, all providers of online
commercial pornographic services accessible from the UK will be required to carry age-verification controls to ensure that their content is not normally accessible to children.
This legislation is an important step in making the
internet a safer place for children.
The BBFC was designated as the age-verification regulator under Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 on 21 February 2018.
Under section 25 of the Digital Economy Act
2017, the BBFC is required to publish two sets of Guidance: Guidance on Age-verification Arrangements and Guidance on Ancillary Service Providers .
The BBFC is now holding a public consultation on its draft Guidance
on Age-Verification Arrangements and its draft Guidance on Ancillary Service Providers. The deadline for responses is the 23 April 2018 .
We will consider and publish responses before submitting final versions of the
Guidance to the Secretary of State for approval. The Secretary of State is then required to lay the Guidance in parliament for formal approval. We support the government's decision to allow a period of up to three months after the Guidance is formally
approved before the law comes into force, in order to give industry sufficient time to comply with the legislation.
Draft Guidance on Age-verification Arrangements
Under section 25 of the Digital
Economy Act 2017, the BBFC is required to publish:
"guidance about the types of arrangements for making pornographic material available that the regulator will treat as complying with section 14(1)".
The draft Guidance on Age-Verification Arrangements sets out the criteria by which the BBFC will assess that a person has met with the requirements of section 14(1) of the Act. The draft guidance outlines good practice, such as
offering choice of age-verification solutions to consumers. It also includes information about the requirements that age-verification services and online pornography providers must adhere to under data protection legislation and the role and functions of
the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). The draft guidance also sets out the BBFC's approach and powers in relation to online commercial pornographic services and considerations in terms of enforcement action.
Guidance on Ancillary Service Providers
Under section 25 of the Digital Economy Act 2017, the BBFC is required to publish: "guidance for the purposes of section 21(1) and (5) about the circumstances in which it will treat
services provided in the course of a business as enabling or facilitating the making available of pornographic material or extreme pornographic material".
The draft Guidance on Ancillary Service Providers includes a
non-exhaustive list of classes of ancillary service provider that the BBFC will consider notifying under section 21 of the Act, such as social media and search engines. The draft guidance also sets out the BBFC's approach and powers in relation to online
commercial pornographic services and considerations in terms of enforcement action.
How to respond to the consultation
We welcome views on the draft Guidance in particular in relation to the
Guidance on Age-Verification Arrangements
Do you agree with the BBFC's Approach as set out in Chapter 2?
Do you agree with the BBFC's Age-verification Standards set out in Chapter 3?
Do you have any comments with
regards to Chapter 4?
The BBFC will refer any comments regarding Chapter 4 to the Information Commissioner's Office for further consideration.
Draft Guidance on Ancillary Service Providers
Do you agree with the BBFC's Approach as set out in Chapter 2?
Do you agree with the classes of Ancillary Service Provider set out in Chapter 3?
Please submit all responses (making reference to specific sections of the guidance where relevant) and confidentiality forms as email attachments to:
deadline for responses is 23 April 2018 .
We will consider and publish responses before submitting final versions of the Guidance to the Secretary of State for approval.
The failure to ensure data privacy/ protection in the Age Ver legislation is
wholely intentional. Its intended to scare people away from adult material as a precursor to even more web censorship in UK.
The Open Rights Group, Myles Jackman and Pandora Blake have done a magnificent job in highlighting the dangers of mandating that porn companies verify the age of their customers.
Worst case scenario
In the worst case scenario,
foreign porn companies will demand official ID from porn viewers and then be able to maintain a database of the complete browsing history of those officially identified viewers.
And surely much to the alarm of the government and the newly
appointed internet porn censors at the BBFC, then this worst case scenario seems to be the clear favourite to get implemented. In particular Mindgeek, with a near monopoly on free porn tube sites, is taking the lead with its Age ID scheme.
some bizarre reason, the government saw no need for its age verification to offer any specific protection for porn viewers, beyond that offered by existing and upcoming data protection laws. Given some of the things that Google and Facebook do with
personal data then it suggests that these laws are woefully inadequate for the context of porn viewing. For safety and national security reasons, data identifying porn users should be kept under total lock and key, and not used for any commercial
A big flaw
But there in lies the flaw of the law. The government is mandating that all websites, including those based abroad, should verify their users without specifying any data protection requirements beyond
the law of the land. The flaw is that foreign websites are simply not obliged to respect British data protection laws.
So as a topical example, there would be nothing to prevent a Russian porn site (maybe not identifying itself as Russian) from
requiring ID and then passing the ID and subsequent porn browsing history straight over to its dirty tricks department.
Anyway the government has made a total pigs ear of the concept with its conservative 'leave it to industry to find a solution'
approach'. The porn industry simply does not have the safety and security of its customers at heart. Perhaps the government should have invested in its own solution first, at least the national security implications may have pushed it into at least
considering user safety and security.
Where we are at
As mentioned above campaigners have done a fine job in identifying the dangers of the government plan and these have been picked up by practically all newspapers. These seem to
have chimed with readers and the entire idea seems to be accepted as dangerous. In fact I haven't spotted anyone, not even 'the think of the children' charities pushing for 'let's just get on with it'. And so now its over to the authorities to try and
convince people that they have a safe solution somewhere.
The Digital Policy Alliance
Perhaps as part of a propaganda campaign to win over the people, parliament's Digital Policy Alliance are just about to publish guidance on age verification policies. The alliance is a cross party group that includes, Merlin Hay, the Earl of Erroll, who
made some good points about privacy concerns whilst the bill was being forced through the House of Lords.
He said that a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) numbered 1296 is due to be published on 19 March. This will set out for the age check
providers what they should do and what records they keep.
The document is expected to include a discussion on the background to age verification, set out the rules in accordance with the Digital Economy Act, and give a detailed look at the
technology, with annexes on anonymity and how the system should work.
However the document will carry no authority and is not set to become an official British standard. He explained:
We can't put rules about
data protection into the PAS... That is in the Data Protection Bill, he said. So we refer to them, but we can't mandate them inside this PAS -- but it's in there as 'you must obey the law'...
But of course Hay did not mention that
Russian websites don't have to obey British data protection law.
And next the BBFC will have a crack at reducing people's fears
Elsewhere in the discussion, Hay suggested the British Board of Film and Internet Censorship could
mandate that each site had to offer more than one age-verification provider, which would give consumers more choice.
Next the BBFC will have a crack at minimising people's fears about age verification. It will publish its own guidance document
towards the end of the month, and launch a public consultation about it.
In a press release the DCMS describes its digital strategy including a delayed introduction of internet porn censorship. The press release states:
The Strategy also reflects the Government's ambition to make the internet
safer for children by requiring age verification for access to commercial pornographic websites in the UK. In February, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) was formally designated as the age verification regulator.
priority is to make the internet safer for children and we believe this is best achieved by taking time to get the implementation of the policy right. We will therefore allow time for the BBFC as regulator to undertake a public consultation on its draft
guidance which will be launched later this month.
For the public and the industry to prepare for and comply with age verification, the Government will also ensure a period of up to three months after the BBFC guidance has been
cleared by Parliament before the law comes into force. It is anticipated age verification will be enforceable by the end of the year.
So how come the BBFC are saying virtually nothing about internet porn censorship and seem happy for newspapers to point out the incredibly dangerous privacy concerns of letting porn websites hold browsing records
The BBC seems to have done a good job voicing the privacy concerns of the Open Rights Group as the article has been picked up by most of the British rpess,
The Open Rights Group says it fears a data breach is inevitable as the deadline approaches
for a controversial change in the way people in the UK access online pornography.
Myles Jackman, legal director of the Open Rights Group, said while MindGeek had said it would not hold or store data, it was not clear who would - and by signing in
people would be revealing their sexual preferences.
If the age verification process continues in its current fashion, it's a once-in-a-lifetime treasure trove of private information, he said. If it gets hacked,
can British citizens ever trust the government again with their data?
The big issues here are privacy and security.
Jackman said it would drive more people to use virtual private networks (VPNs) - which mask a
device's geographical location to circumvent local restrictions - or the anonymous web browser Tor. He commented:
It is brutally ironic that when the government is trying to break all encryption in order to combat
extremism, it is now forcing people to turn towards the dark web.
MindGeek, which runs sites including PornHub, YouPorn and RedTube, said its AgeID age verification tool had been in use in Germany since 2015. It said its software
would use third-party age-verification companies to authenticate the age of those signing in.
AgeID spokesman James Clark told the BBC there were multiple verification methods that could be used - including credit card, mobile SMS, passport and
driving licence - but that it was not yet clear which would be compliant with the law.
For something that is supposed to be coming in April, and requires software update by websites, it is surely about time that the government and/or the BBFC
actually told people about the detailed rules for when age verification is required and what methods will be acceptable to the censors.
The start date has not actually been confirmed yet and the BBFC haven't even acknowledged that they have
accepted the job as the UK porn censor..
The BBFC boss David Austin, spouted some nonsense to the BBC claiming that age verification was already in place for other services, including some video-on-demand sites. In fact 'other' services such as
gambling sites have got totally different privacy issues and aren't really relevant to porn. The only method in place so far is to demand credit cards to access porn, the only thing that this has proved is that it is totally unviable for the businesses
involved, and is hardy relevant to how the dominant tube sites work.
In fact a total absence of input from the BBFC is already leading to some alarming takes on the privacy issues of handing over people's porn viewing records to porn companies.
Surely the BBFC would be expected to provide official state propaganda trying to convince the worried masses that they have noting fear and that porn websites have people's best interests at heart.
Incoming age verification checks for people who watch pornography online are at risk of their sexual tastes being exposed, a privacy expert has warned.
The Government has given the all clear for one of the largest pornography companies to organise
the arrangements for verification but experts claim that handing this power to the porn industry could put more people at risk.
Those viewing porn will no longer be anonymous and their sexual tastes may be easily revealed through a cache of the
websites they have visited, according to Jim Killock, director of Open Rights Group. He warned:
These are the most sensitive, embarrassing viewing habits that have potentially life-changing consequences if they become
In order for it to work, the company will end up with a list of every webpage of all of the big pornographic products someone has visited. Just like Google and Facebook, companies want to profile you and send you
advertisements based on what you are searching for.
So what are AgeID going to do now that they have been given unparalleled access to people's pornographic tastes? They are going to decide what people's sexual tastes are and the
logic of that is impossible to resist. Even if they give reassurances, I just cannot see why they wouldn't.
A database with someone's sexual preferences , highlighted by the web pages visited and geographically traceable through
the IP address, would be a target for hackers who could use them for blackmail or simply to cause humiliation.
Imagine if you are a teacher and the pornography that you looked at - completely legally - became public? It would be
devastating for someone's career.
Idaho lawmakers on Friday approved a proposal declaring pornography a public health risk.
The resolution, sent to the House floor for debate by the House State Affairs Committee, does not call for a ban but rather is a symbolic gesture that urges
state agencies and local officials to recognize the need for education, research and possible policy changes to protect Idahoans -- particularly teenagers -- from pornography.
Representative Lance Clow, a Republican who is backing the resolution
Pornography has and does have adverse impacts on all members of society. It leads to the abuse men, women and children, destroys marriages and has impacts on young and old Families are being torn apart by this
A few weeks before a major change to the way in which UK viewers access online pornography, neither the government nor the appointed regulator has been able to provide details to the BBC about how it will work.
From April 2018, people accessing porn sites will have to prove they are aged 18 or over.
Both bodies said more information would be available soon.
The British Board of Film
Classification (BBFC) was named by parliament as the regulator in December 2017. (But wasn't actually appointed until 21st February 2018. However the BBFC has been working on its censorship procedures for many months already but has refused to speak
about this until formally appointed).
The porn industry has been left to develop its own age verification tools.
Prof Alan Woodward, cybersecurity expert at Surrey University, told the BBC this presented
porn sites with a dilemma - needing to comply with the regulation but not wanting to make it difficult for their customers to access content. I can't imagine many porn-site visitors will be happy uploading copies of passports and driving licences to such
a site. And, the site operators know that.
As the introduction of age verification for websites approaches, it seems that the most likely outcome is that Mindgeek, the company behind most of the tube sites, is set to become the self appointed gatekeeper of porn. Its near monopoly on free porn
means that it will be the first port of call for people wanting access, and people who register with them will be able to surf large numbers of porn sites with no verification hassle. And they are then not going to be very willing go through all the
hassle again for a company not enrolled in the Mindgeek scheme. Mindgeek is therefore set to become the Amazon,eBay/Google/Facebook of porn.
There is another very promising age verification system AVSecure, that sounds way better than Midgeek's AgeID.
AVSecure plans to offer age verification passes from supermarkets and post offices. They will give you a card with a code that requires no further identification whatsoever beyond looking obviously over 25. 18-25 yea olds will have to show ID but
it need not be recorded in the system, Adult websites can then check the verification code that will reveal only that the holder is over 18. All website interactions will be further protected by blockchain encryption.
The Mindgeek scheme is the
most well promoted for the moment and so is seem as the favourite to prevail. TheDaily Mail is now having doubts about the merits of trusting a porn company with age verification on the grounds that the primary motivation is to make money. The Daily Mail
has also spotted that the vast swathes of worldwide porn is nominally held to be illegal by the government under the Obscene Publications Act. Notably female ejaculation is held to be obscene as the government claims it to be illegal because the
ejaculate contains urine. I think the government is on a hiding to nothing if it persists in its silly claims of obscenity, they are simply years out of date and the world has move on.
Anyway the Daily Mail spouts:
moguls behind the world's biggest pornography websites have been entrusted by the Government with policing the internet to keep it safe for children. MindGeek staff have held a series of meetings with officials in preparation for the new age verification
system which is designed to ensure that under-18s cannot view adult material.
Tens of millions of British adults are expected to have to entrust their private details to MindGeek, which owns the PornHub and YouPorn websites.
Critics have likened the company's involvement to entrusting the cigarette industry with stopping underage smoking and want an independent body to create the system instead.
A Mail on Sunday investigation has
found that material on the company's porn websites could be in breach of the Obscene Publications Act. A search for one sexual act, which would be considered illegal to publish videos of under the Obscene Publications Act, returned nearly 20,000 hits on
PornHub. The Mail on Sunday did not watch any of the videos.
Shadow Culture Minister Liam Byrne said:
It is alarming that a company given the job of checking whether viewers of pornography are
over 18 can't even police publication of illegal material on its own platform.
A DCMS spokesman said:
The Government will not be endorsing individual age-verification solutions but
they will need to abide by data protection laws to be compliant.
A Melbourne cinema's operators have cancelled a screening of the iconic 1970s film Deep Throat amid complaints from a women's campaign group, the Coalition Against Trafficking Women in Australia (CATWA).
Gerard Damiano's pornographic film was
scheduled for a rare public screening at The Astor in St Kilda on March 19. The screening was to have been followed by a panel discussion.
In a message responding to the complaints, Palace programming director Kim Petalas said the film was booked
for cultural purposes as a reflection on the changing political, censorship and cinema exhibition landscape in the USA in the early 1970s.
After receiving the complaints The Astor's leaseholders, Palace Cinemas, quickly made the decision to cancel
Feminist concerns about Deep Throat stem not just from its sexually explicit nature but from the personal testimony of its star Linda Lovelace who later accused her former husband Chuck Trainor of forcing her into pornography at
An anti-porn campaigner has criticised plans to introduce financial incentives for watching online porn.
Mary Sharpe, from the Reward Foundation, claims plans by an American company to offer virtual mone for discount on premium content, is
damaging. Sharpe, who runs porn awareness classes at George Heriot's School claimed:
A payment incentive threatens to accelerate the rates of compulsive sexual behaviour in the population, and the resultant health
harms and sex crime.
Stuart Duncan, from Vice Industry Token, the firm behind the reward scheme, said:
Results on whether pornography proves addictive or leads to illegal acts still remain
Proposal for Designation of Age-verification Regulator
Thursday 1 February 2018
The Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Margot James)
I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the Proposal for Designation of Age-verification Regulator.
The Digital Economy Act 2017
introduced a requirement for commercial providers of online pornography to have robust age-verification controls in place to prevent children and young people under the age of 18 from accessing pornographic material. Section 16 of the Act states that the
Secretary of State may designate by notice the age-verification regulator and may specify which functions under the Act the age-verification regulator should hold. The debate will focus on two issues. I am seeking Parliament's approval to designate the
British Board of Film Classification as the age-verification regulator and approval for the BBFC to hold in this role specific functions under the Act.
Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab)
At this stage, I would normally preface my remarks with a lacerating attack on how the Government are acquiescing in our place in the world as a cyber also-ran, and I would attack them for their rather desultory position and
attitude to delivering a world-class digital trust regime. However, I am very fortunate that this morning the Secretary of State has made the arguments for me. This morning, before the Minister arrived, the Secretary of State launched his new app, Matt
Hancock MP. It does not require email verification, so people are already posting hardcore pornography on it. When the Minister winds up, she might just tell us whether the age-verification regulator that she has proposed, and that we will approve this
morning, will oversee the app of the Secretary of State as well.
Particulars of Proposed Designation of Age-Verification Regulator
01 February 2018
Motion to Approve moved by Lord Ashton of Hyde
Section 16 of the Digital Economy Act states that the Secretary of
State may designate by notice the age-verification regulator, and may specify which functions under the Act the age-verification regulator should hold. I am therefore seeking this House's approval to designate the British Board of Film Classification as
the age-verification regulator. We believe that the BBFC is best placed to carry out this important role, because it has unparalleled expertise in this area.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab)
I still argue, and I will continue to argue, that it is not appropriate for the Government to give statutory powers to a body that is essentially a private company. The BBFC is, as I have said before204I do not want to go into any
detail -- a company limited by guarantee. It is therefore a profit-seeking organisation. It is not a charity or body that is there for the public good. It was set up purely as a protectionist measure to try to make sure that people responsible for
producing films that were covered by a licensing regime in local authorities that was aggressive towards certain types of films204it was variable and therefore not good for business204could be protected by a system that was largely undertaken
voluntarily. It was run by the motion picture production industry for itself.
L ord Ashton of Hyde
I will just say that the BBFC is set up as an
independent non-governmental body with a corporate structure, but it is a not-for-profit corporate structure. We have agreed funding arrangements for the BBFC for the purposes of the age-verification regulator. The funding is ring-fenced for this
function. We have agreed a set-up cost of just under £1 million and a running cost of £800,000 for the first year. No other sources of funding will be required to carry out this work, so there is absolutely no question of influence from industry
organisations, as there is for its existing work—it will be ring-fenced.
Although a majority are in favour of verifying age, it seems far fewer people in our survey would be happy to actually go through verification themselves. Only 19% said they'd be comfortable sharing information directly with an adult site, and just 11%
would be comfortable handing details to a third party.
A Republican Virginia lawmaker has revived the nonsense idea to impose a state tax charge on every device sold to enable access to adult websites.
State Representative Dave LaRock's has introduced a bill misleadingly called the Human Trafficking
Prevention Act, which would require Virginians to pay a $20 fee to unblock content on adult websites.
LaRock has track record of being anti-porn and anti-gay. He once tore down advertising for an adult bookstore and railed against recognition for
a local LGBTQ pride month.
Opponents point out that the proposal amounts to a tax on media content and would violate the First Amendment. The Media Coalition, which tracks legislation involving the First Amendment, sees the bill as nothing more
than a tax on content, which is unconstitutional, said executive director David Horowitz. People have a First Amendment right to access this content, and publishers have a First Amendment right to provide it.
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, executive
director of the ACLU of Virginia, said the organization just can't take the bill seriously.
Jerry Butler, a Golden Age porn actor who appeared in more than 500 adult movies in a career that spanned from 1981 to 1993, has died at the age of 58.
Butler entered the world of adult in 1981 after he answered an ad in Backstage magazine.
Initially he auditioned for a non-sex role, but landed a sex role in the 1981 film Young, Wild and Wonderful . After being featured in the big-budget films Roommates in 1981 and In Love in 1983 for Chuck Vincent, he relocated to Los
Angeles to act and perform full-time in adult pictures. His performance in In Love won him Hustler's Best Actor Award that year.
Butler created a stir in the industry when he published his autobiography Raw Talent in 1989. The title
came from one of his best-known films, which told the story of a talented but struggling actor who gets sucked into making porn, winning the fame he craved, but losing himself along the way. His life story, as told to Robert Rimmer and Catherine Tavel,
contained some unflattering details about his colleagues, and claimed there was widespread drug abuse in the industry.
And just a few examples from his filmography:
1993 Savannah Superstar (Video) 1992 Another Dirty Western (Video) 1992 Best Butte in the West (Video) 1989 Simply Irresistible (Video) 1988 Raw
Talent III (Video) 1986 Hot Gun (Video) 1986 The Ginger Effect (Video) 1985 Wet, Wild & Wicked (Video) 1985 Cream Puff (Video) 1985 The Best Little Whorehouse in San Francisco (Video) 1984
Space Virgins (Video) 1984 Return to Alpha Blue (Video) 1983 Once Upon a Secretary (Video) 1983 Vixens in Heat (Video)
It is clear that the BBFC are set to censor porn websites but what about the grey area of non-porn websites about porn and sex work. The BBFC falsely claim they don't know yet as they haven't begun work on their guidelines
The government publishes it guidance to the new UK porn censor about notifying websites that they are to be censored, asking payment providers and advertisers to end their service, recourse to ISP blocks and an appeals process
A person contravenes Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 if they make pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis to persons in the United Kingdom without ensuring that the material is not
normally accessible to persons under the age of 18. Contravention could lead to a range of measures being taken by the age-verification regulator in relation to that person, including blocking by internet service providers (ISPs).
Part 3 also gives the age-verification regulator powers to act where a person makes extreme pornographic material (as defined in section 22 of the Digital Economy Act 2017) available on the internet to persons in the
This guidance has been written to provide the framework for the operation of the age-verification regulatory regime in the following areas:
● Regulator's approach to the exercise of its powers; ● Age-verification arrangements; ● Appeals; ● Payment-services Providers and Ancillary Service Providers; ● Internet Service
Provider blocking; and ● Reporting.
This guidance balances two overarching principles in the regulator's application of its powers under
sections 19, 21 and 23 - that it should apply its powers in the way which it thinks will be most effective in ensuring compliance on a case-by-case basis and that it should take a proportionate approach.
As set out in
this guidance, it is expected that the regulator, in taking a proportionate approach, will first seek to engage with the non-compliant person to encourage them to comply, before considering issuing a notice under section 19, 21 or 23, unless there are
reasons as to why the regulator does not think that is appropriate in a given case
Regulator's approach to the exercise of its powers
The age-verification consultation Child
Safety Online: Age verification for pornography identified that an extremely large number of websites contain pornographic content - circa 5 million sites or parts of sites. All providers of online pornography, who are making available pornographic
material to persons in the United Kingdom on a commercial basis, will be required to comply with the age-verification requirement .
In exercising its powers, the regulator should take a proportionate approach. Section
26(1) specifically provides that the regulator may, if it thinks fit, choose to exercise its powers principally in relation to persons who, in the age-verification regulator's opinion:
(a) make pornographic material or extreme pornographic material available on the internet on a commercial basis to a large number of persons, or a large number of persons under the age of 18, in the United Kingdom; or
(b) generate a large amount of turnover by doing so.
In taking a proportionate approach, the regulator should have regard to the following:
a. As set out in section 19, before making a determination that a person is contravening section 14(1),
the regulator must allow that person an opportunity to make representations about why the determination should not be made. To ensure clarity and discourage evasion, the regulator should specify a prompt timeframe for compliance and, if it considers it
appropriate, set out the steps that it considers that the person needs to take to comply.
b. When considering whether to exercise its powers (whether under section 19, 21 or 23), including considering what type of
notice to issue, the regulator should consider, in any given case, which intervention will be most effective in encouraging compliance, while balancing this against the need to act in a proportionate manner.
issuing a notice to require internet service providers to block access to material, the regulator must always first consider whether issuing civil proceedings or giving notice to ancillary service providers and payment-services providers might have a
sufficient effect on the non-complying person's behaviour.
To help ensure transparency, the regulator should publish on its website details of any notices under sections 19, 21 and 23.
Section 25(1) provides that the regulator must publish guidance about the types of arrangements for making pornographic material available that the regulator
will treat as complying with section 14(1). This guidance is subject to a Parliamentary procedure
A person making pornographic material available on a commercial basis to persons in the United Kingdom must have an
effective process in place to verify a user is 18 or over. There are various methods for verifying whether someone is 18 or over (and it is expected that new age-verification technologies will develop over time). As such, the Secretary of State considers
that rather than setting out a closed list of age-verification arrangements, the regulator's guidance should specify the criteria by which it will assess, in any given case, that a person has met with this requirement. The regulator's guidance should
also outline good practice in relation to age verification to encourage consumer choice and the use of mechanisms which confirm age, rather than identity.
The regulator is not required to approve individual
age-verification solutions. There are various ways to age verify online and the industry is developing at pace. Providers are innovating and providing choice to consumers.
The process of verifying age for adults should
be concerned only with the need to establish that the user is aged 18 or above. The privacy of adult users of pornographic sites should be maintained and the potential for fraud or misuse of personal data should be safeguarded. The key focus of many
age-verification providers is on privacy and specifically providing verification, rather than identification of the individual.
Payment-services providers and ancillary service providers
There is no requirement in the Digital Economy Act for payment-services providers or ancillary service providers to take any action on receipt of such a notice. However, Government expects that responsible companies will wish to
withdraw services from those who are in breach of UK legislation by making pornographic material accessible online to children or by making extreme pornographic material available.
The regulator should consider on a
case-by-case basis the effectiveness of notifying different ancillary service providers (and payment-services providers).
There are a wide-range of providers whose services may be used by pornography providers to
enable or facilitate making pornography available online and who may therefore fall under the definition of ancillary service provider in section 21(5)(a) . Such a service is not limited to where a direct financial relationship is in place between the
service and the pornography provider. Section 21(5)(b) identifies those who advertise commercially on such sites as ancillary service providers. In addition, others include, but are not limited to:
a. Platforms which enable pornographic content or extreme pornographic material to be uploaded;
b. Search engines which facilitate access to pornographic content or extreme pornographic
c. Discussion for a and communities in which users post links;
d. Cyberlockers' and cloud storage services on which pornographic content or extreme pornographic
material may be stored;
e. Services including websites and App marketplaces that enable users to download Apps;
f. Hosting services which enable access to websites, Apps or App
marketplaces; that enable users to download apps
g. Domain name registrars.
h. Set-top boxes, mobile applications and other devices that can connect directly to streaming servers
Internet Service Provider blocking
The regulator should only issue a notice to an internet service provider having had regard to Chapter 2 of this guidance. The regulator should take a
proportionate approach and consider all actions (Chapter 2.4) before issuing a notice to internet service providers.
In determining those ISPs that will be subject to notification, the regulator should take into
consideration the number and the nature of customers, with a focus on suppliers of home and mobile broadband services. The regulator should consider any ISP that promotes its services on the basis of pornography being accessible without age verification
irrespective of other considerations.
The regulator should take into account the child safety impact that will be achieved by notifying a supplier with a small number of subscribers and ensure a proportionate approach.
Additionally, it is not anticipated that ISPs will be expected to block services to business customers, unless a specific need is identified.
In order to assist with
the ongoing review of the effectiveness of the new regime and the regulator's functions, the Secretary of State considers that it would be good practice for the regulator to submit to the Secretary of State an annual report on the exercise of its
functions and their effectiveness.
The US adult trade group, Free Speech Coalition at its inaugural Leadership Conference on Thursday introduced Murray Perkins, who leads efforts for the UK's new age-verification censorship regime under the Digital Economy Act.
Perkins is the
principal adviser for the BBFC, which last year signed on to assume the role of internet porn censor.
Perkins traveled to the XBIZ Show on an informational trip specifically to offer education on the Digital Economy Act's regulatory powers; he
continues on to Las Vegas next week and Australia the following week to speak with online adult entertainment operators.
The reason why I am here is to be visible, to give people an opportunity to
ask questions about what is happening. I firmly believe that the only way to make this work is to with and not against the adult entertainment industry.
This is a challenge; there is no template, but we will figure it out. I am
reasonably optimistic [the legislation] will work.
A team of classification examiners will start screening content for potential violations starting in the spring. (In a separate discussion with XBIZ, Perkins said that his army of
examiners will total 15.)
Perkins showed himself to be a bit naive, a bit insensitive, or a bit of an idiot when he spouted:
The Digital Economy Act will affect everyone in this room, one way or the other,
Perkins said. However, the Digital Economy Act is not anti-porn -- it is not intended to disrupt an adult's journey or access to their content. [...BUT... it is likely to totally devastate the UK adult industry and hand over all remaining business
to the foreign internet giant Mindgeek, who will become the Facebook/Google/Amazon of porn. Not to mention the Brits served on a platter to scammers, blackmailers and identity thieves].
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
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
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.
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.
Globally we saw a 2.4% increase in percentage viewership by women in 2017 as women made up an ever larger part of the overall viewing community. This is trend we've
seen consistently in recent years. Not only are more women coming online, they're coming at a greater rate than men are.
The real story might be emerging markets. South Africa and Saudi Arabia both saw double digit
percentage of women in their audience, reflecting changing attitudes towards adult content, particularly among younger viewers.
Globally, women now make up 26% of the audience. Of course, some countries those number
still have a ways to go.
The top search results for overall in 2017 were:
Growth Markets, 2018
Globally, porn traffic to xHamster grew by 8.9% last year. However, certain patterns were discernible. Traffic in Southeast Asia spiked, as more communities came
online. Countries that had previously blocked porn sites saw their traffic spike, while others, facing anti-porn legislation, mandatory filters and blocks, or campaigns against porn, saw traffic fall. (The US was among the latter, perhaps to increasing
censorship in corporate networks :-( )
The greatest growth was in South Korea, where porn has been traditionally banned, but where the population is currently experiencing a sexual revolution. Traffic tripled in the
past twelve months.
We've also seen a shift in who we're watching. Continuing a trend we've seen in years past, viewers are shifting away from lighter complected ethnicities, like German, Italian and French, to more
Mediterranean nationalities. (Japanese still dominates searches, but even it is down 37% from just a year ago.)