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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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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: Young people, porn and sex education

Posted at 14:51 on 27 Apr 2016 by Pandora / Blake

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

1: Evidence of Harm

2: Sex education

The consultation opens with the bold claim that:

"The UK is a world leader in child online safety" (p4)

In the context of recent revelations showing how unsafe children in the UK are at the hands of exploitative individuals abusing their power within church, political and media institutions, this opening sentence is in poor taste. The Government's obsession with conjuring a demon to fight in the form of online pornography, while ignoring the real problems of child sexual exploitation, poor sex education, unsafe sex, and sexual violence faced by young people in our society, is reminiscent of the politician's syllogism: "We must do something! This is something - therefore we must do it!" Policy-makers would be far better served by devoting their energies to reducing real incidents of child sexual exploitation, that have caused provable and lasting harm, rather than going to great lengths to defeat the nebulous and unprovable harms of online pornography.

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Tags: age verification, AV consultation, censorship, child safety, DCMS, gender politics, media, Ofcom, politics, porn, R18 material, sex critical, sex education, sex positive, 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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Teaching porn in schools

Posted at 20:53 on 20 Mar 2015 by Pandora / Blake

On Monday a Guardian article entitled "Porn belongs in the classroom" made waves in the UK. I got home on Monday afternoon to several journalist interview requests, and an invitation to discuss the topic on BBC Newsnight (which I politely declined because seven hours notice really isn't enough for that sort of thing, although apparently it's standard). This idea has clearly made waves.

Prof Christian Graugaard of Aalborg University has called for pornography to be shown to older teens in schools to kickstart discussion and education that will help them become "more conscientious and critical consumers".

“My proposal is to critically discuss pornography with 8th and 9th graders [age 15 – the legal age of consent in Denmark – and 16 respectively] as part of a sensible didactic strategy, carried out by trained teachers,” he told the Guardian.

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Tags: ethical porn, feminist porn, gender politics, in the news, media, politics, sex critical, sex education, sex positive, young people

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