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The final shape of the Digital Economy Bill

Posted at 18:37 on 18 Apr 2017 by Pandora Blake

Since the Digital Economy Bill passed to the House of Lords a few months ago, I’ve been following its progress closely. I’ve also been doing my best to intervene in the amendment of the Bill by lobbying the Lords - specifically, sending out a briefing on behalf of Backlash after the second debate, before the Bill was discussed in committee. Each time any transcripts have been published, I’ve read them - and started writing blogposts about each stage of the debate. But I’m not a lawyer, and the passage of a Bill through Parliament is a dense legislative process. Honestly, it’s taken all of my capacity to read, digest and comprehend the Hansard transcripts; I didn't also manage to write succinct, accessible reports on the changes as they happened.

I'm going to have to ditch those half-written drafts now, because the Lords have voted on their final amendments to the Bill, and passed it back to the House of Commons for approval. Section 3 on age verification for online porn has changed in some significant ways. In theory there is still the opportunity for MPs to disagree with the changes and propose amendments of their own; bills can be passed back and forth between the Houses until agreement is reached. But realistically, with a General Election just having been announced for 8 June, it's very unlikely that there will be time for an extended game of legislative ping pong. It's much more likely that the Bill will be rushed through in wash-up without any further changes. So this draft is probably the final shape of the forthcoming Digital Economy Act 2017.

I’ve spent a couple of days reading up on the Lords committee report and third debate, and I think I understand them as well as I’m going to. So here’s my overview of the final shape of the Digital Economy Bill.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, classification, cybersecurity, Digital Economy Bill, extreme porn legislation, lobbying, online harassment, privacy, prohibited content, slut-shaming, young people

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Huck Magazine article on indie porn

Posted at 22:02 on 5 Apr 2017 by Pandora Blake

You may remember my post last month, telling how I had a journalist and photographer over to my home one evening to watch me and Blath shooting a ritualistic, witchy content share scene. Well, the photos and resultant article are now available in Huck Magazine.

The piece contains some good stuff: talks in a positive way about queer kinky porn, critiques the Digital Economy Bill and Age Verification, and quotes Vex Ashley and Bishop Black along with me and Blath. It also does a bit to center our work in the historical context of political porn, rather than trying to claim that we are inventing it (as a lot of journalists do when they hear about alt porn for the first time). And at least there isn't any pointless "can porn be feminist???" questioning. I have to admit I'm also struck by the pictures - the photographer did a great job of capturing the dark sexy vibes of the scene (credit to Blath for the arty lighting). Sequins and "decriminalise sex work" postcards: yup, that's a queer porn set.

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Tags: age verification, Blath, Digital Economy Bill, ethical porn, fairtrade porn, feminist porn, media, porn, queer porn

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Discussion on the Digital Economy Bill in London next week

Posted at 21:00 on 4 Apr 2017 by Pandora Blake

Open Rights Group

Next week I shall be speaking alongside Myles Jackman in a discussion with Martin Ashworth of ORG London (Open Rights Group), on the potential impact of the Digital Economy Bill and Age Verification on individuals in the UK. ORG London has over 1200 followers on Meetup, so hopefully this will be a well-attended event and will help to get the word out prior to the upcoming vote on the Bill.

If you're in London next Tuesday evening (April 11th), come along to Newspeak House in Bethnal Green to learn more, and to meet me and Myles!

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Tags: age verification, censorship, Digital Economy Bill, kink activism, law, Myles Jackman, ORG, public speaking

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Briefing the House of Lords on age verification

Posted at 12:18 on 3 Mar 2017 by Pandora Blake

Briefing on the age verification section of the Digital Economy Bill - by Pandora Blake for Backlash

Along with the statement about the Women's March, one of my first actions in my new role as spokesperson for Backlash was to write a briefing about section 3 the Digital Economy Bill, and send it out to 151 members of the Lords, in advance of the Bill going to Committee stage. We targeted the briefing to those members sitting on relevant committees, those who had contributed to the second debate on the Bill, and Liberal Democrats whom we might hope would be sympathetic to issues of net freedom, privacy and civil liberties.

It was no easy task to condense my research and findings on the potential harms of this bill into a short, easily digestible format. To make it more likely that the briefing would be read, I summarised the main arguments in a single cover page, and then fleshed out the three sections - privacy, freedom of expression and lack of supporting evidence - in more detail over three subsequent pages. If you're looking for a succinct introduction to the problems with the age verification policy, I think it's a reasonable start.

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Tags: activism, age verification, Backlash, Digital Economy Bill, kink activism, lobbying

 

Organising with Backlash

Posted at 10:00 on 1 Mar 2017 by Pandora Blake

I had a great start to 2017 when I became a member of Backlash's management team in the role of co-spokesperson alongside Itziar Bilbao Urrutia. Backlash is the UK organisation that defends freedom of sexual expression among consenting adults in UK by providing legal, academic and campaigning advice, and they are keen to publically lend their support to the campaign for sex worker's rights and the full decriminalisation of sex work. Fittingly my first act as co-spokesperson was to release a statement about the Women's March in response to some see-sawing on the Women's March Washington policy statement last week  around sex worker solidarity. 

Our laws around porn, obscenity, BDSM and sexual expression massively affect sex workers. Obscenity law is a sex worker's rights issue, and a labour rights issue, as well as affecting all our sexual liberties. I'm glad that Backlash are willing to stand up in solidarity with all sex workers, and I'm proud to be organising with them to defend our rights and freedoms.

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Tags: age verification, backlash, Digital Economy Bill, kink activism, sex work

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The death of kink?

Posted at 15:40 on 10 Feb 2017 by Pandora Blake

The Death of Kink? Interview in Artefact magazine

This week Artefact Magazine has published a short article on the Digital Economy Bill following a phone interview I did with journalist Nana Baah, who had already written a piece in December on Porn Censorship. This piece fleshes out the details of the censorship overshadowing the UK internet, and includes quotes from my interview with her, and by Jerry Barnett of Sex and Censorship. Jerry rightly links this sort of censorship, to "rising intolerance to free expression" that is permeating our politics at the moment, both in the UK and beyond. 

As well as pointing out the high costs of age verification software and the disproportionate impact this policy will have on small businesses, I talked about some of the knock-on effects of an increasing lack of accessibility to erotic media. '“I get messages daily from people who say that I have helped them to accept themselves, changed their lives and got rid of their shame. If you can’t find out that there are other people with these fetishes, learn about consent and how to practice it safely, then you might think that there is something fundamentally wrong with you. I did until getting online at 13 and seeing preview pictures of spanking - I finally thought ‘Wow, I’m not the only one’.”

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Tags: age verification, Digital Economy Bill, in the news, kink activism, media

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Restricting niche porn sites is bad news for people with marginalised sexualities

Posted at 09:41 on 30 Nov 2016 by Pandora Blake

Restricting niche porn sites is a disaster for people with marginalised sexualities - Pandora Blake for The Guardian

Last week I had an article published in the Guardian about the impact of the forthcoming Digital Economy Bill, and its proposed restrictions on online porn. You can read it here - Restricting niche porn sites is a disaster for people with marginalised sexualities.

The article has received over one and a half thousand comments - and I was pleasantly astonished to discover that the majority of them are sympathetic or supportive. It seems that many people share my outrage that the Government think it a worthwhile use of time and money to legislate what consenting adults do for fun - or think that this bill is a proportionate, workable answer to the problems emerging from young people's lack of sex education.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, classification, Digital Economy Bill, Dreams of Spanking, ethical porn, feminist porn, Guardian, in the news, kink acceptance, Kink Olympixxx, law, media, Myles Jackman, Obscene Publications Act, obscenity, porn, protest

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Written evidence submission to the Public Bill Committee on the Digital Economy Bill

Posted at 12:29 on 28 Oct 2016 by Pandora Blake

Digital Economy Bill

Written evidence submitted by Myles Jackman and Pandora Blake (DEB 61)

 

Who we are

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, classification, Digital Economy Bill, freedom of expression, Myles Jackman, obscenity, politics, porn, privacy, R18

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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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Age verification: The Digital Economy Bill and what it means

Posted at 22:30 on 30 Aug 2016 by Pandora Blake

The government have published their reply to the consultation responses we submitted earlier this year on their proposed policy to enforce age verification for UK viewers of online porn. These proposals are not evidence-based, are classist to the core, and have worrying implications for privacy and freedom of speech. Along with many of you, I submitted a response to the consultation in April, which you can read in full here (it's split into six parts - turns out I had a lot to say). My response was also submitted to the Liberal Democrat policy committee, as well as to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in the civil service. 

Since then I've attended meetings with representatives from DCMS, the UK Adult Producer trade association, and the Adult Provider Network to discuss the age verification proposals. In these meetings the civil servants I spoke to worked hard to come across as reasonable, open-minded, and interested in listening to our concerns and improving the proposals. But now they've published their official response to the consultation, it's clear that this was a performance purely for our benefit. The Digital Economy Bill reproduces the original policy proposal pretty much unchanged; which in turn is drawn straight from a Conservative party manifesto pledge. It seems that the consultation was a mere box-ticking exercise, paying lip-service to the of listening to experts, industry and the public, but without any intention to actually take the responses into account. Despite seeming open to criticism when we met in person, the official response makes it clear that they don't care what we think, and intend to go ahead with the proposals as if the consultation had never taken place. 

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Tags: age verification, ATVOD, AV consultation, AVMS, BBFC, BBFC guidelines, censorship, child safety, civil liberties, credit cards, Digital Economy Bill, digital rights, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, obscenity, Ofcom, politics, porn, privacy, surveillance, technology, young people

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