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Posted at 22:20 on 16 Nov 2017 by Pandora / Blake

Mindgeek: Big data

The more I learn about age verification, the worse an idea it seems to be. I’ve written before about the logistical problems with the policy, especially in light of the proposed enforcement deadline of 27 April 2018. We still don’t know how it will be enforced, who the regulator will be, or what will be considered compliant; and there are lengthy Parliamentary processes to be completed before we can find out.

Meanwhile the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the British Board of Film Classification (who are tipped to be the new regulator) are refusing to engage. I recently organised a roundtable of security experts, privacy campaigners, site owners and age verification providers to share knowledge and discuss the issues, and both DCMS and BBFC declined to attend. The DCMS are also refusing to answer my questions via email.

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Tags: age verification, BBFC, DCMS, Digital Economy Act, Digital Economy Bill, DPA, Mindgeek, privacy, security

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Sextech, Porn and the Law - event writeup and slides

Posted at 17:30 on 18 Oct 2017 by Pandora / Blake

The Regulatory Framework Controlling UK Porn - by Pandora / Blake

I very much enjoyed the SCL (Society for Computing and Law) event on Sextech, porn and the law last week. It was hosted by lawyer Neil Brown, and chaired by Daniel Cooper. There was a sizeable audience and four speakers in total; in addition to Neil and myself, Sarah Jamie Lewis and Dr Kate Devlin.

Dr Devlin kicked things off with an engaging talk about sex robots, one of her areas of research. She shared some of the hype and misinformation that the media tends to indulge in around sex robots, and why a lot of it is hyperbolic and sensationalist. She talked about what sex robots can and can't offer; including a preview of the Harmony bot which is being developed in California at the moment. Dr Devlin went to visit the lab working on this project, and she describes the robot as a beautifully crafted silicon sex doll with an animatronic face and a recorded voice controlled by AI. They've got an in-house AI team and the AI is apparently remarkably good; you can chat to Harmony. The robot head mounts onto the standard sex dolls, meaning the body is poseable, but doesn't move independently. Read Engadget's report on meeting Harmony here.

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Tags: anonymity, Dr Kate Devlin, events, law, obscenity, politics, porn, privacy, public speaking, queer politics, Sarah Jamie Lewis, sex robots, sex toys, talks

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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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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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Age verification: Credit cards, classism and social exclusion

Posted at 13:36 on 11 May 2016 by Pandora / Blake

Why would anyone use an alias?

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

Most methods of age verification assume certain privileges which marginalise and exclude adults on low incomes, those at risk of violence for whom it would be unsafe to share their passport names, and those in unstable accommodation.

The most common method for age verification, with currently available technology, is for the site visitor to enter their credit card details to confirm that they are over 18. This often operates as part of a paywall but can function separately, with the card details being checked but not actually charged. Age verification for online porn is already mandated on UK-based adult websites, with credit cards the only method of age verification accepted by ATVOD - and (since ATVOD folded in January 2016) by their parent body Ofcom, who have taken over sole regulatory responsibility. Debit cards are not considered acceptable proof that a porn site visitor is over 18 - in fact this was one of the gotchas under which my site was ruled against last year. 

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, censorship, credit cards, Facebook, freedom of speech, media, politics, porn, privacy, surveillance, technology

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Age verification: Privacy, surveillance and freedom of speech

Posted at 16:32 on 8 May 2016 by Pandora / Blake

Ceiling Cameron is watching you masturbate - by @wefail

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

Freedom of expression is important and must be protected. The UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, stated last year in his report on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression that "the right to freedom of expression includes expression of views and opinions that offend, shock or disturb". His report also noted that restrictions on access to information can have a "chilling effect", whereby individuals restrict their own activities in anticipation of being forced to comply, often over-estimating and censoring themselves far more effectively than if it were left to government enforcement. He concluded that restrictions on access to information online must be:

  • limited to exceptional circumstances
  • governed by law and a clear legal process
  • necessary and the least restrictive means required to achieve the aim.

The Open Rights Group has reiterated the importance of these principles; they limit the extent to which governments, businesses or others can limit the free access to information, whether through overzealous efforts to protect citizens, or more abusive attempts to control free access to information.

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, censorship, child safety, freedom of speech, media, politics, porn, privacy, surveillance, young people

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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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