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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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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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Age verification: Piracy, monopoly and industry standards

Posted at 09:59 on 29 Jun 2016 by Pandora / Blake

Response to the Government consultation on Child Safety Online: Age Verification for Pornography

1: Evidence of Harm

2: Sex education

3: Privacy, surveillance and freedom of speech

4. Credit cards, classism and social exclusion

5. Problems with the existing classification system

6. Piracy, monopoly and industry standards

The age verification proposal observes that free tube sites are the primary route by which under 18s access porn, and yet the proposed regulatory framework fails to adequately differentiate between tube sites - which make money from advertising, and often distribute commercial content without the consent of the producers - and commercial porn sites, where the viewer can purchase content direct from the makers. This distinction is worth emphasising. It is not reasonable to impose identical regulatory controls when the two types of site function in very different ways, and have very different effects on the browsing experience of under 18s.

Adult content redistributed on tube sites (often by a third party rather than the original creator) is usually given new headlines and scene descriptions, utilising very different language. Videos are often re-edited to be more concise, with contextualising dialogue and scene-setting removed. A scene which was originally published as an extended exploration of foreplay, intimacy and sensual affection, described with respectful, humanising language that emphasises the consent and mutual respect of the participants, might be pirated and uploaded to a tube site, cut down to a jerky sequence of out-of-context sexual acts, with the activities and participants described using sexist and offensive language. Moreover, videos on tube sites are redistributed outside the content in which they were originally published, without giving the viewer access to any behind the scenes videos, performer interviews and commentary that were available on the original site.

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, civil liberties, decriminalisation, digital rights, piracy, politics, porn, sex workers rights, tube sites, Zahra Stardust

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