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BDSM Ethics and Practice, and other training for the BBFC

Posted at 17:00 on 14 Sep 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Last week I was invited to visit the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and deliver a half day of training. This was something of a coup. Three years ago, my ethical porn website had just been closed down by the previous online porn regulator, due to my films contravening guidelines maintained by the BBFC. Now, the new online porn regulator were asking me to come and deliver an expert briefing to their compliance team about BDSM, its ethics and practice, and my recommendations regarding the way BDSM films are regulated.

It was an amazing opportunity to meet the people making decisions that affects filmmakers like me, talk to them about the issues, and create a shared context. I was excited to have the chance to share my knowledge and experience to help the team's understanding as they make classification recommendations on BDSM content.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, BDSM, consent, ethics

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Porn star Misha Mayfair and activist Pandora Blake warn adults about age verification

Posted at 10:16 on 10 Sep 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Porn star Misha Mayfair and activist Pandora Blake present Curtains for Privacy: a safe-for-work satirical sexual exposé of the privacy risks presented by Government’s new age verification rules.

Mayfair and Blake appear in the viral video, released by ResistAV today, draped naked in net curtains as they warn of the risk of UK adults being outed under the Digital Economy Act 2017’s age verification requirements, with the punch line: “It’ll be curtains for personal privacy”.

The video heralds the launch of a crowd funding campaign on the CrowdJustice platform, to raise legal fees to challenge the age verification régime, designed by obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman.

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Tags: age verification, Backlash, Misha Mayfair, Myles Jackman, press release, privacy, ResistAV

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BBFC told it isn't up to the challenge

Posted at 13:00 on 12 May 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Age verification has been hanging over us for several years now - and has now been put back to the end of 2018 after enforcement was originally planned to start last month.

I'm enormously encouraged by how many people took the opportunity to speak up and reply to the BBFC consultation on the new regulations.

  • Over 500 people submitted a response using the tool provided by the Open Rights Group, emphasising the need for age verification tech to be held to robust privacy and security standards. I'm told that around 750 consultation responses were received by the BBFC overall, which means that a significant majority highlighted the regulatory gap between the powers of the BBFC to regulate adult websites, and the powers of the Information Commissioner to enforce data protection rules.
  • The Open Rights Group also submitted a weighty response that offered a deep dive into the privacy and security risks of age verification.
  • Security expert Alec Muffett, who also sits on the Board of Directors of ORG, wrote this punchy response highlighting the discrepancy between the security protocol in place for credit card transactions, and the lack of security requirements for age verification tools - which collect far more sensitive data with no means of redress in the case of someone being publically outed.
  • Backlash submitted a tremendously forceful response emphasising the extraordinary risk to individuals' privacy, and holding the BBFC to account for preventing another "Ashley Madison" style hack of even greater magnitude - which would have devastating consequences for millions of UK adults.
  • As well as helping out behind the scenes with the ORG and Backlash responses, after talking through the issues with Myles Jackman I submitted a response on behalf of both of us, which attempts a thorough review of the freedom of expression, privacy and security risks of age verification. It goes into detail about the impact of the policy on low traffic porn sites and independent sex workers, and the lack of credible evidence supporting age verification.

I'm delighted to hear that many other notable community members including Professor Clarissa Smith and Vex Ashley submitted responses which no doubt add their own forceful arguments against the implementation of age verification in its current form. I wanted to highlight a couple of exceptional responses from individuals which were shared publicly.

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Tags: age verification, Backlash, BBFC, consultation, Myles Jackman, Open Rights Group

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Response to the BBFC consultation on age verification

Posted at 08:00 on 24 Apr 2018 by Pandora / Blake

I sent a response to the BBFC consultation on their draft guidance on age verificationon behalf of myself and obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman.

Table of Contents

  • Do you agree with the BBFC's Approach as set out in Chapter 2?

    • Child protection

    • The scope of the legislation

      • Out-dated classification guidelines
      • “Frequently visited”
      • Extreme pornographic material
      • Indecent images of children
    • Right of Appeal

    • Sanctions and disproportionality

    • Impact on low-traffic websites

      • Financial impact
      • Lack of technical resources
      • Social benefits of online sexuality communities
      • Impact on diversity and freedom of expression
      • Proposals
    • Impact on independent sex workers

  • Do you agree with the BBFC's Age-verification Standards set out in Chapter 3?

    • Privacy “recommendations” are unenforceable

    • Risk of social exclusion

    • Collection and retention of data

      • Conflict of interest
      • Risks associated with data breaches
      • Lack of redress
  • Do you have any comments with regards to Chapter 4?

    • Insufficient security standards

      • PCI-DSS
      • PAS 1296
      • Data protection
    • Regulatory oversight

    • Conclusion

Click here to read the full consultation response.

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Tags: age verification, AgeID, BBFC, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, ICO, MindGeek, Myles Jackman, privacy, security, sex worker rights

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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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Strong privacy is a must for age verification tech

Posted at 15:23 on 18 Apr 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Open Rights Group

The Open Rights Group are urging people to respond to the BBFC public consultation on their age verification guidelines.

The Government is about to require all UK internet users to verify they are over 18 to be able to view pornography. This will likely require users to use documents like a passport, credit card, or driving license to prove their age to the site.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, Digital Economy Act, Open Rights Group, privacy

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Age verification enforcement delayed

Posted at 19:16 on 13 Mar 2018 by Pandora / Blake

Age verification for online porn has been delayed

The news broke on Sunday, with as quiet a splash as the Government could manage. Over the weekend the Government issued a press release about their digital strategy, with a focus on the rollout of 5G for mobile. It also sneakily contained the news that implementation of the age verification requirement has been delayed from 27th April until 'the end of the year'. It was buried in an unrelated announcement, presumably, because they didn't want too much of a fanfare about the climbdown. 

Our 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.

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Tags: age verification, Digital Economy Act

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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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If you've enjoyed reading this, you can join me on Patreon to ensure I can keep writing. Your support makes this possible.

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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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