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Tell the BBFC age verification will do more harm than good

Posted at 12:34 on 19 Apr 2018 by Pandora / Blake

By the end of this year, the Government is planning to enforce new rules requiring anyone in the UK to prove their age before looking at pornographic websites. Young people deserve our protection and support, but there is no evidence that these measures will do anything to keep children safe - and meanwhile, the Government are reducing funding for sex education, schools, libraries and youth clubs, indicating that they are more interested in blocking access to pornography and controlling the Internet than in truly helping young people.

The Government is leaving it to private companies to handle age verification, enabling these companies to collect databases of the porn browsing habits of UK adults which could be leaked or hacked. Despite these risks, the regulations contain no strong requirements for age verification tools to protect user privacy.

The regulator is holding a public consultation which is open until next Monday, April 23.  We need as many individuals as possible to respond to the consultation. Would you please add your voice using the resources below, and share these links with your networks? Even a quick response in favour of increased privacy requirements would be enormously valuable.

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Tags: age verification, AgeID, BBFC, MindGeek, Open Rights Group

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Behind the scenes with Myles Jackman

Posted at 09:32 on 21 Feb 2018 by Pandora / Blake

On Friday I got together with obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman and some like-minded friends to create a new campaign video for Backlash and raise awareness around age verification. Look out for the completed film coming in the next few weeks. We recorded this short and sweet video blog after the shoot to tell you what we've been up to. 

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Tags: age verification, AgeID, Backlash UK, Digital Economy Act, MindGeek, privacy, security

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Privacy threat posed by AgeID hits the mainstream news

Posted at 19:53 on 9 Feb 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Pandora Blake talks about age verification on Sky News

One of the difficulties of campaigning in the arena of sex and sexuality is how difficult it is to get mainstream attention. Even when issues potentially affect the privacy and freedom of a majority of adults, most publications will post stuff related to sex as a lightweight "lifestyle" feature rather than as serious news.

So it was ground-breaking for Sky News to feature a report on the dangers of mandatory age verification, in particular the threat posed to personal privacy if MindGeek successfully establish a monopoly with their AgeID software. I watched the video as it was first broadcast live on the bus on my phone with my headphones on. It features an interview with me and - somewhat to my surprise - excerpts from my film trailers I had posted on YouTube. It's a trip to see (fully clothed) snippets from your indie porn films used to illustrate a mainstream news story - even more so when watching it on public transport!

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Tags: age verification, AgeID, Digital Economy Act, in the news, media, MindGeek, porn, privacy, security

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I don't endorse age verification

Posted at 10:12 on 25 Jan 2018 by Pandora / Blake

So you'll have noticed that I've been spending a lot of time campaigning around age verification, and working to mitigate the harms threatened by Section 3 of the Digital Economy Act. I've been giving talks and interviews, meeting members of the DCMS, lobbying Parliamentarians and speaking with companies who are preparing age verification software, to advise them around privacy and security. (This work is funded by my Patreon supporters - and if you believe in what I'm doing, every contribution is appreciated.)

This work puts me in something of a conflicted position. I don't endorse age verification as a policy; I think it's poorly conceived, a solution looking for a problem. It rejects the results of the government's public consultation, in which more respondents answered responded against age verification than in favour. It's based on false claims - that young children regularly 'accidentally' stumble across online porn and suffer terrible psychological damage as a result - based on shoddy evidence that does not meet peer-reviewed standards.

On the basis of these arguments and more I've argued against age verification as a strategy since it was first proposed. Nonetheless, the Digital Economy Act became law last year and age verification will be enforced very soon – on 27th April in fact, if the announced deadline is upheld. In its current form, it's a hugely problematic policy. Not only is it poorly implemented, and full of ambiguities and inconsistencies, but there are well-documented concerns over privacy and security which must be taken seriously. I've outlined risks around data collection and storage, possible identity theft, data leaks or breaches, and malicious misuse of data for advertising or profiteering, to name a few – would you want a list of porn sites you have visited saved under your email address somewhere?

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Tags: age verification, AgeID, Digital Economy Act, freedom of expression, MindGeek, privacy, security, sex education, young people

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DCMS pass the buck on age verification

Posted at 16:00 on 9 Jan 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Queer porn maker infiltrating Parliament: Pandora Blake visits the DCMS

Before Christmas I met the DCMS to talk to them about age verification, and try and get some answers out of them. Here's what I learned.

Who will have to comply?

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Tags: age verification, audio, BBFC, DCMS, Digital Economy Act, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, MindGeek, privacy, security

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Questions for the DCMS

Posted at 17:00 on 20 Dec 2017 by Pandora / Blake

How to get a meeting with the DCMS

I was recently invited to meet with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to discuss age verification.

I've been trying for a while to make this conversation happen. I'd previously connected with a couple of different members of the Child Internet Safety Team, the group responsible for implementing age verificiation - and then they moved onto other roles, leaving me without any active contacts. I first met with different representatives in collaboration with the UK Adult Producers trade association (UKAP), with the Open Rights Group - and more briefly at events organised by UKAP and the Adult Provider Network. Twice I was given email addresses and told to keep in touch, only to then have my emails ignored. No doubt they're busy people.

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Tags: age verification, DCMS, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, MindGeek, privacy, security

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Do you trust PornHub with a database of your sexual preferences?

Posted at 22:20 on 16 Nov 2017 by Pandora / Blake

Mindgeek: Big data

The more I learn about age verification, the worse an idea it seems to be. I’ve written before about the logistical problems with the policy, especially in light of the proposed enforcement deadline of 27 April 2018. We still don’t know how it will be enforced, who the regulator will be, or what will be considered compliant; and there are lengthy Parliamentary processes to be completed before we can find out.

Meanwhile the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the British Board of Film Classification (who are tipped to be the new regulator) are refusing to engage. I recently organised a roundtable of security experts, privacy campaigners, site owners and age verification providers to share knowledge and discuss the issues, and both DCMS and BBFC declined to attend. The DCMS are also refusing to answer my questions via email.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, DCMS, Digital Economy Act, Digital Economy Bill, DPA, Mindgeek, privacy, security

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Age verification - more questions than answers

Posted at 17:50 on 20 Aug 2017 by Pandora / Blake

Since the Digital Economy Act passed in April, age verification is coming to the UK - and the government have announced a deadline of April 2018. Thanks to the combined campaigning efforts of myself and various groups, we managed to get an amendment passed which averted the worst case scenario regarding prohibited content. But with web blocking still in place as a potential sanction, and no safeguards for user privacy, the Act still represents bad news for UK internet freedom.

I’m not the only one concerned about this. The Open Rights Group are also worried about the consequences of this badly-worded new law. This month I’ve had meetings with Executive Director Jim Killock and Legal Director Myles Jackman about age verification and what we can do about it. ORG have a long history campaigning for digital rights, and I've been a member for over ten years. We'll working together over the coming months to campaign on age verification and privacy, alongside my work with Backlash and as an independent voice.

I joined ORG in meeting Chris Ratcliff from the Digital Policy Alliance, the cross-party group consulting to the Government on the age verification policy, and also with a representative from the DCMS (the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - the ‘digital’ has been recently added), the branch of the civil service who are responsible for implementing it. The meetings were useful in allowing me both to make my concerns known, and ask questions to improve my understanding of the situation. Although I learned a lot, overall it seems that as far as age verification is concerned, there are still more questions than answers. 

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Tags: age verification, AVMS, BBFC, censorship, DCMS, Digital Economy Act, Digital Economy Bill, Digital Policy Alliance, digital rights, Mindgeek, obscenity, Ofcom, Open Rights Group, porn, porn law

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The Adult Provider Network discusses problems with the Digital Economy Bill

Posted at 12:29 on 28 Sep 2016 by Pandora / Blake

The Adult Provider Network

Last month I attended the second meeting of the newly reinstated Adult Provider Network - an adult industry trade association formed last month to co-ordinate responses to the Digital Economy Bill. It was an absolutely fascinating meeting, and I learned a lot. Read on to discover how this will actually affect your business if you run a UK porn site, why the bill potentially discriminates against the visually impaired, and how the bill risks creating a new trade barrier between UK industry and overseas.

Who are the Adult Provider Network?

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Tags: Adult Provider Network, age verification, ATVOD, AV consultation, AVMS, BBFC, BBFC guidelines, censorship, child safety, civil liberties, Digital Economy Bill, digital rights, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, health and disability, MindGeek, obscenity, Ofcom, politics, porn, privacy, sex education, surveillance, technology, young people

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