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Sextech, Porn and the Law - A glimpse into the future of sex and sexuality and its regulatory framework

Posted at 09:00 on 21 Aug 2017 by Pandora Blake

I am delighted to have been invited to speak at an event in October, organised by the Society for Computers and Law (SCL), entitled 'Sextech, porn and the law - a glimpse into the future of sex and sexuality and its regulatory framework'. 

I shall be on a panel with the fantastic Dr Kate Devlin, Sarah Jamie Lewis and laywer Neil Brown, and the event will explore the technology of sexuality in detail including its history, current and future developments, privacy and security, and legal issues affecting production and sales. My talk will centre on how the legal framework affects the production and distribution of online pornography, with a focus on the new Digital Economy Act and its forthcoming policy of mandatory age verification. After the four talks there will be a Q&A session which provides an exciting opportunity to ask the opinions of some of the leading experts in this field. 

The idea for the event was prompted by the interest in Neil Brown's excellent article 'Sextech: sticky legal issues?' which talks about sex toys that have internet connectivity, and the resultant data collection, privacy and security issues; and about sex robots and the various ethical issues around them. I really recommend a read. 

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Tags: age verification, events, law, obscenity, porn, public speaking

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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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Queer Porn at the British Film Institute

Posted at 14:51 on 28 Mar 2017 by Pandora Blake

Myles Jackman, Jiz Lee, Pandora Blake and Jay Bernard at Sexit, BFI Flare

When I started making spanking films I never once imagined that I would get a chance to screen them at the British Film Institute. Porn - especially queer porn and fetish porn, and Dreams of Spanking is firmly in both camps - is in many ways innately counter-cultural. When I launched the site I didn't expect the draconian criminalisation that would follow; but equally I didn't expect that queer porn, specifically my queer spanking films, would be considered cultural enough to be shown somewhere like the BFI.

It's a bittersweet juxtaposition, perfectly illustrated by something I noticed when I arrived at the BFI for Flare, the LGBTQ film festival, at which I was taking part in a panel discussion around how porn law affects queer porn. The banner across the Flare reception desks proclaimed the sponsors of the event; and there on the left was the legend "Supported by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport." How ironic that the very department of the civil service supporting this event is the one which introduced a statutory instrument in 2014 criminalising many forms of queer porn, including my own. It was surreal to speak about that criminalisation, to a sympathetic audience eager to learn how they can resist state oppression, at an event supported by the very public body responsible for that oppression. For me, that dissonance aptly summarised the widening gap between legislation imposed from above by those who have no clue about sexuality or sex work, and an increasingly open-minded public who mostly consider the sex lives of consenting adults to be their own damn business.
 
Before the panel proper, I recorded a video interview alongside queer porn icon Jiz Lee, and Chocolate Chip, who stars in Snapshot, the new "porn noir" sexy whodunnit by Shine Louise Houston, with questions asked by Flare programmer Jay Bernard. Jay is one of the curators of the festival, and they did an amazing job co-ordinating the Sexit panel and programming queer films that center people of colour. The interview was intended to be streamed via Facebook Live, but apparently the BFI is an old old building with shitty connectivity, so it was recorded instead - I'll link the video as soon as it's available. 

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Tags: activism, Digital Economy Bill, Dreams of Spanking, ethical porn, Extreme Porn legislation, fairtrade porn, feminist porn, Gender politics, Jiz Lee, kink activism, listen to sex workers, Myles Jackman, obscenity, porn, queer porn

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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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Announcing the Backlash Kink Olympixxx - changing the rules for adult games

Posted at 17:39 on 4 Oct 2016 by Pandora Blake

The Backlash Kink Olympixxx: Mon 17 October, Houses of Parliament

I'm finally ready to announce some exciting news that I've been working on behind the scenes for over a month - ever since I realised the full extent of the harm that will be done by the Digital Economy Bill. The bill is currently going through Parliament, and proposes to bring in mandatory age verification for online porn without any provisions to safeguard the personal privacy and sexual liberty of web users. The bill has been debated twice by MPs and on 8th October will go through to the committee stage; and yet none of the concerns which I and other civil liberties activists have raised have yet been satisfactorily addressed. 

Do you want to have to enter personal identifying details before you're allowed to look at porn - such as your real name, address, or date of birth? Do you trust porn sites to keep this data secure - and do you want a database of your accumulated porn browsing history to be owned by private companies, exploited for commercial gain and at risk of Ashley Madison style data breaches that would leak your personal sexual preferences into the public domain?

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Tags: AVMS, Backlash, BBFC, classification, Digital Economy Bill, Myles Jackman, obscenity, politics, porn, protest

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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: Problems with classification

Posted at 21:01 on 20 May 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

The proposals assume a straightforward definition of “pornography” which is not workable in practice. During the second reading of the Online Safety Bill in the House of Lords Baroness Brinton argued that:

“A simplistic definition of pornography will cause immense problems in our courts. How do you define arousal and to what level of arousal - partial, full? Is that arousal the view of the average person on the Clapham omnibus, or should the definition cover the various fetishes that people may have? The famous film director Quentin Tarantino is a foot fetishist. There are a number of people who have assessed his use of bare feet in all his films. Clearly they arouse people with the said fetish.”

If a website calls itself “porn” or “erotica” but none of its contents depict nudity, staged violence or sexual acts - a foot fetish website is a perfect example - should it be categorised as a “sex work” for classification purposes? What harm could a young person possibly come to, looking at artistically lit videos of bare feet?

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, AVMS, BBFC guidelines, British Fetish Film Festival, CPS, ethical porn, feminist porn, fetish porn, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, media, Myles Jackman, obscenity, politics, porn

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How to respond to the age verification consultation

Posted at 19:13 on 5 Apr 2016 by Pandora Blake

A working group called the “UK council for child internet safety” have published a 44 page proposal document outlining new plans whose stated intention is to ‘protect children online’. The proposals have worrying implications for privacy and freedom of speech, and are based on questionable assumptions and widely-debunked statistics and studies. If they go ahead, online age verification will become compulsory for anyone in the UK wishing to view any web page anywhere in the world on which adult content (still images or video) is hosted. If a site does not install an approved age verification system, the government wants to be able to contact the site's billing agent to cut off their income, and/or their hosting provider to have the site taken offline entirely. These proposals formed part of the government's pre-election manifesto, which also promised the construction of a UK-wide firewall blocking adult sites that failed to comply.

If you think this is a bad idea, please respond to the consultation by midday on 12 April 2016 - that's one week from today. 

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, BBFC, censorship, civil liberties, CPS, digital liberties, ethical porn, feminist porn, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, net filters, obscenity, Ofcom, OPA, piracy, politics, porn, privacy, sex education, surveillance, tube sites

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