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SISEA: The Fourth Horseman of the Pornocalypse

Posted at 15:00 on 4 Jan 2021 by Pandora / Blake

Recently I published a post discussing the substantial change to Pornhub’s community guidelines which has seen millions of videos removed from the site, and Visa and Mastercard removing billing from PornHub during their investigation into illegal content, which will hit content creators hard.

In what appears to be a response to these changes - or perhaps to the anti-porn fearmongering that prompted them - an invasive bill has been put forward in the US Senate with extensive regulation proposals for adult sites. The bill - known as the Stop Internet Sexual Exploitation Act (SISEA) - proposes regulations such as a requirement for platforms to operate a 24-hour telephone hotline that you can contact to request removal of a pornographic image if you haven’t consented to its upload, and remove flagged videos within two hours of such a request.

Tackling unconsensual images is important, but this bill would represent the end of online porn. The privacy implications are terrifying (a global database of individuals who have indicated they do not consent, accessible by anyone uploading porn? Really?) and the impact on independent porn sites would be devastating. Show me a single indie producer who could staff a 24hr phone line, because I don’t know any. The full list of restrictions that SISEA is looking to bring in is alarming. Most online sex workers rely on platforms like OnlyFans and Clips4Sale, and advertise on Twitter. It seems likely that OnlyFans and Twitter would stop hosting porn rather than comply with these expensive and burdonsome regulations; and platforms dedicated to porn might well lack the resources to comply. If the umbrella term ‘platforms’ includes indie self-hosted porn sites as well, it's the end of online porn as we know it.

I don’t say this lightly - if this bill gets through it's the end of porn on Twitter, and the end of fan sites, clip sites and membership sites. Sex workers are already being squeezed out of most social media spaces by commercial regulations making it harder and harder to advertise. Selling sexual content online is accessible, COVID-safe work. In a pandemic, destroying the online sex industry means taking much-needed income away from struggling individuals. The callousness is staggering. Do they want people to be mixing households by meeting clients in person, and putting themselves at greater risk of violence and arrest by selling sex outdoors, instead of performing in the safety of their bedrooms? Because that’s exactly what will happen with the introduction of this bill into law.

Even if SISEA doesn't pass, the threat alone is enough to put us in our place - as our governments desire so much. Porn creators are in an abusive relationship with financial institutions and governments. They can ruin us any time they care to -  and they like showing it. Bills like this remind us of our precarity, and it's humiliating.

In my sex positive online bubble, working hard to build my business, I sometimes forget that  much of the world thinks I should stop doing what I'm doing. This bill serves as an unwelcome reminder that the mood out there is hostile. 

It is absolutely essential to the health and diversity of our sexual culture, not to mention the survival of sex workers worldwide, that we prevent this from becoming law. If you're in the US, write to your senator - and I encourage you to donate to the Free Speech Coalition to support them in their battle against SISEA.

This isn't the happy tidings I hoped to start the year with. It's a timely reminder that porn censorship never goes away completely - it just recedes for a while.

This post was funded by my 110 Patrons. To power my activism and my writing on sexual freedom and social justice, join my Patreon community here

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Tags: censorship, Free Speech Coalition, independent porn, law, Porn Censorship, porn law, Pornhub, pornocalypse, SISEA

7 comments

Pornhub, Censorship and the New York Times

Posted at 15:00 on 27 Dec 2020 by Pandora / Blake



About a week ago, PornHub announced they were banning uploads from unverified users - meaning that only verified performers and content creators signed up to PornHub’s model scheme would be able to upload videos to the site.

In and of itself, this is a fantastic piece of news and something people in the industry have been calling for for a while. PornHub is a huge player, and it’s almost impossible not to engage with it on some level if you sell porn online. This change will go a long way toward ensuring that professional content creators are not in direct competition with people providing free porn (which was often pirated). It will also help massively in reducing the instances of uploads that are not porn so much as they are abuse, such as so-called “revenge porn” and content including people who have not (or could not have) consented. It’s good for performers, who will get paid more; it’s good for consumers, who will see a higher calibre of content; and it’s good for PornHub, who will have a less mammoth task ahead of them in terms of eradicating illegal and immoral uploads.

Or it could have been, anyway.

These changes were implemented as the result of a lengthy and extremely sensationalistic op-ed recently published by the New York Times. XBiz described the article as “emotional pornography”, and I can see their point - it’s extremely emotive, not particularly evidence-based, and ignores some basic facts about the dissemination of content depicting child abuse online. The sad truth is that this content isn’t a porn problem - it’s a people problem. There are more images of child abuse posted on Facebook than there are on PornHub. Anywhere that receives a large amount of potentially anonymous user-generated content (which is to say - the internet) will have to tackle this problem, but for some reason the anti-pornography campaigners never talk about that bit.

So now we get to the real issue: this change in PornHub’s policy isn’t the only impact that article had. Visa and MasterCard also decided to respond to it: they’ve launched an investigation of PornHub, to find out whether or not they are indeed facilitating the publication of illegal pornography. While this investigation is underway, they’ve frozen all card use on the site, both credit and debit. And if Visa and MasterCard both do it, that really is all card use: in much of the world they’re the only two kinds of cards anyone has, and as a result they’re the only two kinds of cards most places will accept.

The real kicker is that PornHub - and Mindgeek, the umbrella company who own them - are not the people most badly affected by this decision. Card payments aren’t their only source of revenue; they make money through affiliate links (when someone clicks through from PornHub to another site and eventually purchases something from that site, PornHub get a cut) and advertising (which they tend to put on pages containing free porn, ensuring those ads get a lot of views and are therefore extremely valuable). They definitely take a hefty cut of the card payments for PornHub Premium, but ultimately those card payments mostly go to pay the content creators, models and performers who publish on the site.

So once again - and as fucking always - it’s the little guys getting screwed over by this, not the massive conglomerate run by people who aren’t exactly broke. (I did have a go, while researching for this post, at finding out the rough net worth of the people who own Mindgeek. It’s not information that’s readily available online, indicating that they’re not on quite the level of the people on the Forbes 1000 or whatever. Still, though, I doubt they’re hurting for cash.)

The most worrying thing this highlights is just how much power Visa and MasterCard have. Whether we like it or not, the internet is operating under an unrecognised and unacknowledged form of global censorship that is outside of any kind of legislative process. It's not possible for any member of the general public anywhere in the world to vote on or influence it, and it's run entirely for the benefit of its own CEOs (and those CEOs really are on the Rich List). At any moment, Visa and Mastercard could effectively destroy the entire porn industry - and there’s nothing we can do about it. All it would take is for a few sensationalistic articles like the one recently published in the NYT to make them decide that they stand to gain more from being seen as anti-porn than they would lose in revenue from porn sites.

This is exacerbated by the fact that it’s not just PornHub affected by this. Other major players in the industry have already made their own changes out of fear that Visa and MasterCard will come for them next: Clips4Sale, for example, have silently deleted a lot of tags and categories that previously saw plenty of use. Some of them make sense: It’s obvious to us that things like ‘forced orgasm’ and ‘forced stripping’ are just roleplay, but I can see why they got the chop - especially as they were removed alongside many other categories including the word ‘forced’. But some are just bizarre - ‘limp dick’? Really? ‘Resting fetish’? Good grief. You can see a full list of the categories deleted here. (I'll confess to getting a small smile out of 'abused shoes' - those poor defenceless shoes!)

I’m all in favour of the recent decision made by PornHub to switch to verified content only, and it’s massively important to me - as a feminist, as a content creator and as a parent - to fight against pornography that is abusive, exploitative and unconsensual. But this isn’t about that. This is about the power held by a tiny number of unchecked companies and individuals over the freedoms of the entire world: sensationalist journalism that happens to be published in the New York Times, and the de-facto lawmakers in banking and billing institutions who can be influenced by it, to destroy hundreds of thousands of livelihoods on a whim.

Links

PornHub's updated Commitment to Trust and Safety 

XBiz: PornHub Removes All Unverified Content 

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Tags: censorship, corporate censorship, freedom, freedom of expression, MindGeek, PornHub, pornocalypse

5 comments

Feminism, Sexuality & Obscenity at Housmans

Posted at 10:29 on 25 Jul 2018 by Pandora / Blake

I recently chaired a panel at Housman's Radical Booksellers in Kings Cross, discussing Feminism, Sexuality & Obscenity. This was a bittersweet opportunity. The event had been devised by journalist and author Catherine Scott, author of Thinking Kink: The Collision of BDSM, Feminism and Popular Culture. Catherine had just finish her second book, To Deprave and Corrupt: Obscenity Battles in British Law and Culture

Catherine organised this panel to bring together feminist thinkers, sex workers and activists, to discuss the issues facing women around sex and obscenity today. It was with great sadness that I learned that Catherine suddenly passed away a couple of weeks before the event.

Her friends knew how much she had been looking forward to the panel, and how much it meant to her. They felt that these were important issues that deserved a platform, and they wanted to honour her memory by making sure it went ahead.

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Tags: Catherine Scott, censorship, feminism, gender politics, Itziar Bilbao Urrutia, law, obscenity, politics, porn, Zak Jane Keir

3 comments

Adult content on Patreon

Posted at 23:49 on 25 Oct 2017 by Pandora / Blake

Pandora Blake is creating sexual freedom - Patreon

"Small tweaks, big impact." That was the title of the Patreon newsletter which I got sent last week. I read the headlines - changes to the way we can browse and store patron data and issue refunds, and thought nothing of it. It wasn't until this week that someone on Twitter posted paragraphs from the Terms of Service that had been updated.

Tags: censorship, Patreon, politics, pornocalypse, sex worker rights

2 comments

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. 

Keep reading »

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

2 comments

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

4 comments

Interview about feminism and submission at ErikaLust.com

Posted at 11:00 on 4 Mar 2017 by Pandora / Blake

I recently gave an interview to fellow feminist porn producer, the fabulous Erika Lust, which is now available on her website, complete with some pictures and sexy gifs! We talked about how I make my porn ethical; how Dreams of Spanking is at risk from the Digital Economy Bill here in the UK; how many of the fetish acts which seem to have been highlighted as “unacceptable” are those specific to female domination porn; feminism and submission; BDSM in the mainstream, and more. It had to be cut for length, but just for you dear readers here is the interview in full:

Dominance and submission at ethical porn site Dreams of Spanking

Hi Pandora! It's so great to talk to a woman on the same mission as myself to change the face of porn, *virtual high five* :) Now down to business. Your work has been described as "ethically produced fetish content" on your site Dreams of Spanking. Can you explain a little what this means?

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Tags: censorship, Digital Economy Bill, Dreams of Spanking, ethical porn, feminism, feminist porn, kink activism, stigma, submission

 

Sexit: What the Fuck is Happening with UK Porn Laws?

Posted at 11:19 on 2 Mar 2017 by Pandora / Blake

Tickets are now on sale for SEXIT: What the Fuck is Happening with UK Porn Laws? an event taking place at the Birtish Film Institute as part of BFI Flare, the LGBT+ film festival. SEXIT will question the new wave of censorship which disproportionately targets queer pornographers, performers and portrayals of alternative sexualities. What does it mean when a feminist UK business is forced offline, but hardcore free American porn will still be readily available?

I'm delighted to be sitting on the panel along with the brilliant Myles Jackman - and I've heard some exciting rumours about other front-line activists and filmmakers who may be joining us to. This promises to be a great discussion, and it's great to see the BFI making space for this conversation amongst queer and kink community members. 

Keep reading »

Tags: censorship, Digital Economy Bill, events, feminist porn, kink activism, queer porn, Shine Louise Houston, vampire porn

2 comments

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?

Keep reading »

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

0 comments

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. 

Keep reading »

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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