ATVOD held a conference on 12 December on protecting children from online porn. LSE's Benjamin De La Pava reflects on the discussion arguing that there remains little consensus upon which to base policy
Three of the biggest payment handling companies have backed calls to cut off funds to hard-core pornographic websites
that allow children access.
Visa, MasterCard and PayPal have agreed to help to lobby the Government for laws that would allow them to refuse to process card payments to websites that do not have age restrictions, Peter Johnson, chief executive of the Authority for Television
on Demand , said last night.
The VOD censor, ATVOD, has been arguing that the law would be a significant step in stopping children being able freely to access porn. However with the amount of porn already sloshing around the world then this seems an unlikely outcome. However
it will crucify smaller companies to try make a living in an industry trying to compete with a free product.
Update: Pete Johnson speaks of legislation required to ban payments to websites
At the event: For Adults Only? -- protecting children from online porn conference, organised by ATVOD, there was much discussion of ways to censor the internet in the name of child protection. In particular there were further comments about
blocking payment services to adult websites. Pete Johnson, ATVOD Chief Executive, said:
The overarching message of the conference was that we all need to continue finding ways to better protect children online. That is why ATVOD is working with Visa Europe, MasterCard, PayPal and others in the UK payments industry to design a
process which would prevent payments being made to foreign websites which allow children in the UK to view hardcore pornography. The initiative requires statutory underpinning and we are therefore discussing with Government the options for
bringing this about. In the meantime, ATVOD will continue to take robust action to ensure that UK websites keep hardcore porn out of reach of children.
The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP), a not-for-profit organisation funded by the US online adult industry, and
the Free Speech Coalition, the US adult entertainment trade association, came together today (12 December) to discuss the topic For Adults Only -- Protecting Children From Online Porn at The Authority of Television On Demand (ATVOD)
The two invited organisations reinforced their common purpose to protect children online; however, called for a public education campaign as the only viable alternative to blanket censorship, such as ISP blocking, based on the findings of their
report Protecting Children in the Digital Age .
The report is based on independent research and over 17 years combating the spread of child pornography, as well as learning from failed initiatives in the US. It calls for the UK government to re-think how they approach issues around children and
The function of government is to provide its citizens with considered evidence based Public Policy; not to cooperate with moral panics and narrow pressure groups.
Duke was highlighting current reliance on non-scientific research, such as the Psychologies magazine survey conducted on a small sample of London school children and avoidance of academic research such as EU Kids Online from the London School of
The ASACP, who have won awards for initiatives such as the Restricted to Adults (RTA) label, participated in the US Congressional Internet Caucus, and think tanks on internet safety at institutions like Harvard stated:
Forced ISP blocking will not identify online sex offenders or victims of abuse, and won't prevent online sex offenders from accessing images or attempting grooming.
Spokesperson Vince Charlton, Director of European Outreach for ASACP added:
After almost 20 years in the industry, and painstaking adherence to the best academic research, we have found the most significant impact on behaviour and safety is parental involvement in children's' digital lives. This would be achieved with an
extensive public education campaign.
Creating hysteria and setting up blocks at the ISP level will not only do little to protect children online, but also may pose additional threats because it will give parents a false sense of security.
The report offers the following recommendations on child safety: 1)The launch of a public educational campaign to provide factual information to UK citizens on how to keep our young people safe online 2)Partnering with adult content providers and
gaming sites to ensure all sites use a filtering system that facilitates age-appropriate parental controls 3)Providing practical, evidence based, educational classes to parents covering topics from installing parental controls, to how to
communicate with their children about online interactions
The report also highlights the failings of filtering technologies as a silver bullet solution to child protection online and raised serious concerns that ISP blocking could even prevent young people's access to advice and resources on
serious issues like cyber-bullying, child luring, cyber-stalking, and what to do if you are a victim of sexual or physical abuse.
An internet porn website operator has been barred from running any video on demand services in the latest move by
censors seeking to restrict hardcore porn on-line.
This is the first time the censorship sanction has been used against any on-demand operator, who become liables to criminal prosecution if they defy the order.
J P Media were operating the website Jessica Pressley , an internet service offering hardcore porn. A second porn supplier, S Hilder, operator of the website Pleasuring Herself has also been the subject of enforcement action.
Both services have closed following action by the Authority for Television On Demand ( ATVOD ). The video on demand censor found the services were in breach of its rules in failing to keep explicit videos or still images beyond the reach of
children. The services offered access to explicit hardcore porn videos which could be viewed on-demand. Yet the content of the videos was equivalent to that which in Britain could be sold only to adults in licensed sex shops if supplied on DVD.
The services each broke the statutory rules in two ways. Firstly, they allowed any visitor free, unrestricted access to hardcore pornographic video promos/trailers or still images featuring real sex or masturbation in explicit detail. Secondly,
access to the full videos was open to any visitor who paid a fee. As the services accepted everyday payment methods -- such as debit cards -- which occasionally can be used by under 18's, ATVOD ruled that each service had also failed to put in
place effective access controls in relation to the full videos.
The Pleasuring Herself service closed after receiving an enforcement notification from ATVOD requiring the provider of the service to either restrict access to explicit images to those who were know to be at least 18, or remove such images from
However, the Jessica Pressley service did not comply with a similar enforcement notice and was closed only after ATVOD asked Ofcom to impose a statutory penalty. Ofcom examined the service and agreed with ATVOD's findings, concluding that this was
a serious breach of statutory requirements.
Under 368K(3)(a) of the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom directed J P Media that their entitlement to provide the Jessica Pressley service or any other on-demand programme service was suspended. The suspension took immediate effect and continues
indefinitely. This is the first time such a direction has been used in regard to a video on demand service.
The end result of ATVOD's rules are that British companies aren't allowed to sell to the many people who don't happen to hold a credit card. And smaller websites find it unsurprisingly difficult to sell their product without being able to show a
sample to customers.
And as for the idea of verifying people's ages by them supplying personal identity information. This is a disgraceful charter for scammers and phishers.
The net result is that British viewers simply find their porn elsewhere. No less porn is consumed, and no less porn is seen by children. The unilateral action just means that Britain takes one more step towards bankruptcy, as business is stifled
by miserablists, moralists, PC extremists, censors, health freaks, red tape addicts, bureaucrats and politicians.
After getting in trouble for not following ATVOD's overly restrictive and unviable child protection rules, Playboy TV decided to move the Playboy
TV website (and Demand Adult website) offshore to Canada.
However ATVOD would not accept that Playboy had actually moved the editorial control of the website to Canada and felt that it should there continue to be subject to ATVOD rules.
ATVOD's reasons cited for their refusal to accept the move seem particularly spurious. From the Ofcom adjudication:
In particular, ATVOD noted the following features of the website as evidence that the Service remained within UK jurisdiction:
a. The contact information (as at 14 September 2012) on the Service was for the UK address of the company Playboy TV UK / Benelux Ltd .
b. Terms and Conditions on the Service refer to being governed by English Law .
c. Domain registration data suggested that the Service is not registered in Canada, but in America.
d. The overall design and layout of the Service had not changed since the apparent transfer to Canada.
ATVOD also noted an email of 10 September 2012, provided by the Service Provider, from the Head of Digital and New Media at Playboy TV UK / Benelux Limited to the Canadian Product Manager. ATVOD argued this email suggested that the
UK Service Provider retained editorial responsibility for the Service.
Playboy decided to appeal to Ofcom about ATVOD's claim. Playboy responded to ATVOD's points:
In particular, Playboy noted that:
a. The fact that the Services' Terms and Conditions referred to are bound by UK Law and payments taken by a UK company had no bearing on editorial control .
b. The Services' American Domain registration, again, had no bearing on editorial control .
c. The Montreal-based company had decided the current design of the Service was sufficient and the redesign of a website is a lengthy process.
In relation to the email of 10 September 2012 cited by ATVOD, the Appellant stated that ATVOD had misrepresented its position and that, in fact, it uploaded videos to the Service as they become available and, as such, no editorial decisions
are taken in the UK.
Ofcom made a few enquiries about staff responsibilities and accepted that editorial responsibility had been transferred to Canada:
In relation to the points cited by ATVOD, Ofcom broadly accepts the Appellant's explanations for the features noted by ATVOD. In particular, although the features noted could be indicative, cumulatively, of a service editorial responsibility for which
has not changed, it is not determinative and evidence that there had been a genuine reorganisation including redundancies in the UK and the taking on of responsibilities by staff in Montreal is persuasive.
Ofcom upholds the Playboy's appeal and substitutes ATVOD's decision with Ofcom's Decision, that the Playboy TV did not fulfil the criterion in section 368A(1)(c) of the Act as at 24 July 2012 and therefore was not the provider of an online video service
subject to ATVOD regulation.
The success of their appeal means that they [Playboy TV] can continue providing hard-core internet porn to UK consumers beyond the reach of British regulation.
ATVOD publishes determinations that 10 adult video on demand services had breached statutory
rules requiring UK video on demand providers to keep hardcore pornographic content out of reach of children and announces summit with financial industry on blocking payments to non-UK porn services which fail to protect children
The findings by the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) bring to almost 30 the number of porn operators against whom the regulator has acted over the past two years.
The 10 online video on demand services - Absolute Cruelty, Belted by Beauty, Bitch Slapped, CFNM, CMNM, Frankie and Friends, Jessica Pressley, The British Institution, The Casting Room and Young Dommes -- were held to be in breach of a statutory rule
which requires that material which might seriously impair under 18's can only be made available if access is blocked to children.
The ten services offered any user access to explicit hardcore porn videos which could be viewed on-demand. Yet the content of the videos was equivalent to that which could be sold only to adults in licensed sex shops if supplied on DVD.
The services each broke the statutory rules in two ways. Firstly, they allowed any visitor free, unrestricted access to hardcore pornographic or BDSM video promos/trailers or still images featuring real sex in explicit detail or strong BDSM activity.
Secondly, access to the full videos was open to any visitor who paid a fee. As the services accepted commonplace payment methods -- such as debit cards -- which can be used by under 18's,
[ATVOD don't mention the fact that it is almost impossible to run a business that cannot accept commonplace payment systems, and cannot show the products that they are selling before purchase. Who's going to risk giving credit
card details to a porn website that you can't see. It would be a scammers charter].
ATVOD counsels against complacency as most websites which allow UK children to access hardcore pornography operate from outside the UK and therefore fall outside ATVOD's remit.
ATVOD notes that Crown Prosecution Service guidance on the Obscene Publications Act makes clear that non-UK websites which offer unrestricted access to hardcore pornography and which can be accessed from the UK are likely to be considered to be operating
in breach of UK law. Such websites offer free content as a shop window to attract subscriptions mainly paid by credit and debit card. ATVOD has therefore questioned whether it can be right for businesses which are likely to be operating illegally
to draw revenues from UK bank and credit card accounts.
[But this legal argument relies on under 18's being depraved and corrupted by viewing hardcore porn. All campaigners seem to insist that massive amounts of children access porn, yet the vast majority are clearly neither
depraved nor corrupt, nor seriously harmed for that matter.]
ATVOD has raised this issue directly with those involved in facilitating such payments and is holding a summit with the UK Cards Association, the Payments Council, the British Bankers' Association, and leading payment scheme operators on 10 October to
discuss how the financial industry's response to the problem might evolve.
The latest ATVOD victims, with full text of the ATVOD determinations are:
ATVOD embark on another bureaucratic waste of money consultation about a disgraceful labyrinth of rules trying to claim that video on demand is TV-like. It is not. It is DVD-like. You buy it and watch it when it suits you. Simple.
This is a consultation by the Authority for Television On Demand ( ATVOD ), the body that Ofcom designated on 18 March 2010 as the co-regulator for VOD editorial content. The purpose of this consultation is to consult on a proposal to adopt new
guidance on the scope of the regulations that apply to video on demand services.
Since April 2010, ATVOD has published guidance as to the factors and criteria that are applied by ATVOD when determining whether a service falls within the definition of an on-demand programme service ( ODPS ) under section 368A of the
Communications Act 2003 ( the Act ) and is therefore subject to the regulatory framework for VOD. In light of its experience since 2010, ATVOD considers that it is now appropriate to adopt revised guidance, and has developed new draft guidance (
the Proposed Guidance ) in consultation with the ATVOD Industry Forum and Ofcom.
ATVOD's only adult industry representative on its board will be leaving his position on Thursday when his term expires.
Chris Ratcliff, the programming director for Portland Broadcasting (Television X), will leave the eight-member board after serving an 18-month term.
Emphasizing to XBIZ that he was not removed from the position as a non-independent director, Ratcliff said that he doesn't believe the non-renewal of his seat was a deliberate attempt to disengage with the adult industry. But the net result is
Ratcliff told XBIZ:
A small co-regulatory board with only four non-independent directors cannot represent all industry sectors at all times. It was felt that small mainstream businesses did not have a voice and so I step aside to let those providers come to the fore.
I do not believe that this is a deliberate attempt to disengage with the adult industry, but the net result is the same. The ATVOD board has severed ties with the industry and so we lose direct representation at the heart of regulation.
The UKs Internet Video censor, ATVOD wants to convince banks to withhold card payment services to hardcore
websites that don't follow the overcautious restrictions on access to hardcore material by under 18s. ATVOD demand that only credit card holders, (not debit card holders) should be allowed to access hardcore material.
ATVOD claims to have powers to fine British companies for making unrestricted hardcore material available but this unilateral approach is suffocating British business. The ATVOD approach to the card companies is an attempt to penalise foreign companies
outside of British control.
Financial organisations and the video censor will meet next month to discuss ATVOD's requests.
The Daily Telegraph reports that it is hoped a voluntary deal will be agreed with credit card firms, perhaps heeding the warning that: Government sources have made it clear that ministers would be prepared to consider legislation, if necessary.
Atvod is expected to announce details of action it has taken against British businesses next week.
A summit will be held with the UK Cards Association, the British Bankers Association, the Payments Council and the leading credit card companies early next month, the paper reported.
Johnson said that the financial services firms had given a very positive response to the proposal. But surely the card companies will be a bit aware that if they agree to ATVOD's requests, they will get an endless stream of moralists calling for
the same treatment of their pet prohibitions.
The DCMS has published an official wide ranging paper on internet and communications policy. Many of the censorship aspects have already been described by David Cameron in his recent speech. Here are a few paragraphs fleshing out some of the
proposed censorship ideas:
Material Promoting Terrorism
The Prime Minister has convened an Extremism Task Force which will be looking closely, in the coming months, at the role the communications industry can and should play in reducing the availability of material promoting terrorism online.
A watershed for internet TV
We want to ensure that the living room remains a safe space for children.
TV remains central to our lives, with people in the UK watching on average more than four hours of broadcast TV every day. Families still get together to sit around the television and watch the latest period drama, talent competition, or catch
the latest episode of their favourite soap.
But increasingly, set-top boxes and TVs connected to the internet enable programmes and films to be viewed on-demand, to fit viewing around our own schedules. These can fall outside of regulatory frameworks. People tend to consider connected
TVs to be a TV-like experience and expect to be more protected than they are from content accessed through PCs and laptops. Yet, the technology means that it is easy to flick between regulated and unregulated spaces. Since this is not
always clear, this increases the risk of people inadvertently accessing content that may be offensive, inappropriate, or harmful to children.
The technology is already available to enable people to be provided with more information about programmes, and for locks to be put in place to prevent post- watershed programmes from being viewed by children on-demand. But more needs to
be done to make sure that these practices are adopted more widely, and to make sure that tools, like pin-protection, are straightforward and easy for people to use.
We also want it to be clear to people when they are watching TV in a protected, regulated space, and when they move with just a few clicks to an unregulated area of the internet. We want industry, broadcasters, manufacturers and platform
providers, to lead the development of consumer tools in this area, working with regulators to consider what mechanisms can be applied to clearly label regulated and unregulated content. One such mechanism, may be, for example, using the
electronic programme guide itself to define the protected space. We will work with industry to ensure that best practice is developed and can be shared and standardised. Given this is an area where we are seeing rapid developments, we will keep
progress under close review, and if necessary, we will consider the case for legislation to ensure that audiences are protected to the level that they choose
R18 on internet TV
The popularity of video-on-demand services (VoD) has grown dramatically in recent years, providing consumers with great new choices about what they want to watch when and where. But with this new opportunity comes risk, and this is particularly
the case when it comes to harmful content that is now more readily available. In hard copy, content rated R18 by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is only available in licensed sex shops and content that was even stronger is
banned outright. The VOD regulations in this area do not currently provide the same level of certainty and protection as on the high street. As on-demand services become increasingly prevalent we want to make sure that regulation of on-demand
content is as robust as regulation of content on a DVD, bringing the online world into line with the high street.
We will legislate to ensure that material that would be rated R18 by the British Board of Film Classification is put behind access controls on regulated services and we will ban outright content on regulated services that is illegal even in
licensed sex shops.
More Dangerous Pictures
We will also close a loophole in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, so that it is a criminal offence to possess extreme pornography that depicts rape.
We are seeing good progress in this area:
Where children could be accessing the internet, we need good filters that are preselected to be on, and we need parents aware and engaged in the setting of those filters. By the end of this year, when someone sets up a new broadband account,
the settings to install family friendly filters will be automatically selected; if you just click next or enter, then the filters are automatically on.
By the end of next year ISPs will have prompted all existing customers to make an unavoidable decision about whether to apply family friendly filters.
Only adult account holders will be able to change these filters once applied.
All mobile phone operators will apply adult filters to their phones. [Does this allow adults to turn off the blocking?]
90% of public Wi-Fi will have family friendly filters applied to wherever children are likely to be present.
Ofcom will regularly review the efficacy of these filters
But we are clear that industry must go further:
We expect the smaller ISPs to follow the lead being set by the larger providers.
We want industry to continue to refine and improve their filters to ensure they do not, even unintentionally, filter out legitimate content.
We want to see mobile network operators develop their child safety services further; for example, filtering by handset rather than by contract would provide greater flexibility for parents as they work to keep their children safe online.
Paying for PC advert censorship
The UK benefits from a healthy and successful advertising sector, underpinned by an exemplar of successful self-regulation, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The A administers a system which is flexible and responsive, and is industry
funded, through 0.1% levy on non-broadcast advertising spend levied by the Advertising Standards Boa of Finance (ASBOF). This levy is voluntary, but is well supported by industry; however, will be important to ensure that this continues to be
sustainable in the future. The relatively recent extension of the ASA's online remit to cover marketing on companies own websites and on social media demonstrates the increasing importance of online advertising, and advertising spend in the
future is likely to increase its focus on these online markets. Therefore, it will be important to ensure that this self-regulatory, industry-funded model remains sustainable for the future, and that the regulation of online and offline
advertising alike can continue to be supported by the industry levy. Some concerns have been raised over the degree to which collection of the levy in the digital world has kept pace with the rate at which advertisers are now operating there.
We think it is incumbent upon all parts of the industry, including the digital media, to safeguard this continued funding by playing their part in the collection of the levy.
ATVOD has the bizarre idea that online porn is likely to 'deprave and corrupt' children. Hence the Video on Demand Censor claims that the
banks could ban card payments on the grounds that the porn contravenes the Obscene Publications Act.
However online porn has been available for some time and there's not much evidence of masses of depraved children. Most campaigners against online porn are more realistically concerned that it provides a bad education for children, and that boys may be
learning to treat girls less respectfully than they should.
Floella Benjamin, a member of the House of Lords asked the Government this week:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the action taken by the Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD) to ensure that United Kingdom websites providing explicit pornography keep such material out of reach of those aged under
18; and whether they will take steps to assist ATVOD in acting in relation to websites operating from outside the United Kingdom.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the suggestion by the Authority for Television on Demand that United Kingdom financial institutions should consider whether it is possible to decline to process payments from the United
Kingdom to the operations of non-United Kingdom websites which appear to be breaking the Obscene Publications Act 1959 by allowing children to access explicit hardcore pornography.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble answered:
I welcome the work that the Authority for Television on Demand (ATVOD) has undertaken in this area to explore with UK financial institutions and card companies the possibility of declining to process payments to websites operating from outside the EU
which allow under 18s in the UK to view explicit pornographic content. The protection of children online is of the utmost importance and we will watch this work with interest. ATVOD provided a report on this area to the UKCCIS executive board on July,
8th, 2013 and we look forward to receiving further reports on their progress in due course.
The reply doesn't seem to imply much pro-active support from the government, just a a vague interest to see how ATVOD gets on.
The Authority for Television On Demand, censor for UK Video on Demand services -- has published its annual report detailing steps taken by ATVOD in the year to 31 March 2013.
This included action against two services run by Playboy TV which resulted in fines totalling £ 100,000. The porn video sites operated by Playboy TV had failed to ensure that under 18s could not access hardcore
porn content on the UK operated websites.
The Playboy TV services were among 16 services -- operating across 26 websites - found to be in breach of the statutory rules in 2012-13 because they featured hardcore porn material which could be accessed by under 18's.
However, ATVOD counsels against complacency as most websites which allow UK children to access hardcore pornography operate from outside the UK and therefore fall outside ATVOD's remit.
The annual report points out that Crown Prosecution Service guidance on the Obscene Publications Act makes clear that non-UK websites which offer unrestricted access to hardcore pornography and which can be accessed from the UK are likely to be
considered to be operating in breach of UK law. Such websites offer free content as a shop window to attract subscriptions mainly paid by credit and debit card. ATVOD has therefore questioned whether it can be right for businesses which are likely
to be operating illegally to draw revenues from UK bank and credit card accounts.
ATVOD has raised this issue directly with those involved in facilitating such payments and hopes to see real progress during the coming year.
ATVOD has also provided government with a detailed briefing on policy options which could be considered if children are to be better protected from hardcore pornography online.
Interestingly ATVOD has not reported that the CPS, nor the banks, nor the government are actually agreeing with ATVOD's ludicrous legal contention that hardcore porn is criminally obscene when likely viewers are under 18.
Most commentators on the subject have more realistic concerns that porn is not a good educator for kids and that it is creating false expectations from sex. In particular it seems to be feared that boys are picking up bad pointers about girls being
readily available for sex. Few seem to be worrying that kids are being 'depraved' and 'corrupted' as required by the cited Obscene Publications Act. I wonder how many parents support the notion that their porn viewing children are depraved and corrupt?
The 2013 Annual Report also highlights:
A rise in the number of regulated VOD services: from 184 at the end of 2011-12 to 206 at the end of 2012-13
A 15% rise in the number of complaints to ATVOD about VOD services
A survey showing the importance British adults attach to ensuring that hardcore porn online is kept out of reach of children, with 88% saying such action is important
Action taken to encourage service providers to make their services more accessible to people with disabilities relating to sight or hearing
Work undertaken with industry to reduce administrative costs in regulation
ATVOD also notes that the most of the complaints were out of remit and that very few resulted in breaches of the code, maybe only the general complaint that hardcore porn is readily available to under 18s.
ATVOD received an income of £ 534,000 to deal with this single general complaint. One wonders if all the companies contributing thousands of pounds feel that their money is being well spent.
ATVOD's chief censor says he's in discussions with processors about blocking payments to non-U.K.
websites that offer hardcore porn.
Peter Johnson, who leads the British Video On Demand censor, claimed that websites that offer hardcore porn outside of restricted sections, without rigorous age-verification barriers, could be violation of the U.K.'s Obscene Publications Act and
be operating illegally in the country.
However it seems entirely ludicrous that viewing depictions of such a commonplace and normal activity as sex could 'deprave and corrupt' children. They are well prepared for sex via sex education, endless discussions in the media, not to mention
sex being a top topic of conversation in just about every classroom in the country.
The ongoing debate has featured the subject in great detail lately, and most commentators seem concerned by the more realistic worries that multi partner sex, and particularly rough sex featured in some material, are not great sex education
lessons for kids. But few are suggesting that such harms go as far as to 'deprave and corrupt' children as required to breach the Obscene Publications Act.
And of course if the kids were being depraved and corrupted, then we would realise by now, because apparently most of the kids have already seen it anyway. Crime rates are falling in Britain, hardly evidence of this supposed mass corruption.
Johnson claimed at last week's Westminster forum debate, presumably addressing foreign businesses:
If you're offering [hardcore porn] in your shop window, you're breaking U.K. law. Even if you're not in the U.K., you're breaking U.K. law because our children can access it.
Therefore your shop is trading illegally. Therefore funds should not be flowing from the U.K. to your shop, because your shop is fundamentally operating in an unlawful capacity.
According to Wired, Johnson mentioned one porn site as a target, Manwin's PornHub.com. Johnson said that this site offers hardcore pornographic content freely without age-verification barriers, including credit card, passport or driving license
checks. The free stuff is the shop window, he said, referring to PornHub's opening web page.
I can't imagine the payment companies are very impressed by being asked to police internet porn, especially on such a flimsy legal case. Every nutter in the world would clamour for them to ban payments to their pet hates.
MNS Media provided softcore website services for British glamour models:
We wrote to the Service Provider on 26 March 2013 to inform the Service Provider that we had come to a preliminary view that the Service was an ODPS in respect of which a notification had not been given and in respect of which a fee had not been
paid, and that our preliminary view was that the Service Provider was in contravention of sections: requirement to notify an ODPS; and requirement to pay a fee.
Prior to the issue of the Preliminary View ATVOD had engaged with MNS Media as part of the investigation process. During those exchanges MNS Media made two statements :
MNS Media stated in an email that ...we are not a Video on Demand site - we have video content as part of a site subscription that includes video, pictures, interactive members forum and Blogs.
MNS Media stated in an email that the address for MNS Media was in Mallorca.
The ATVOD executive found on 12 March 2013 that entering each address above into a web browser took a consumer to a webpage which featured a sample video and text outlining the content of the site. The lay out for all 6 websites was similar,
with a still image of the model and a sample video, along with more still images from photo shoots. The sites all had a banner which stated it's a massive 2013 promo offer, get 6 sites for $34.99 . A user has the option to purchase the
promotional offer which would allow them access to all the above 6 websites under one paid subscription. All 6 sites offered a similar nature of videos, containing soft core adult material. A link take my free tour could be seen on all
the 6 websites, upon clicking on this link, users were taken to a page which featured still images which appeared to be stills taken from the videos available on the websites.
Once a user had logged into each site the user was taken to a member's area, where the user could choose from a selection of videos. The videos were separated into two categories: behind the scenes videos and sexy videos . The
sites contained videos which portrayed sexualised nudity without explicit detail, the majority of which contained female models removing their clothing in various outdoor and indoor settings.
MNS Media Ltd is a registered company and has a registered office in the UK. This address is also found on some of the individual websites that comprise the Service. ATVOD has also received email communication from MNS Media regarding the
Service from its Social Media & Marketing Director who has a UK mobile number. Taken together, this evidence suggests to ATVOD that a significant part of the workforce involved in the Service operates in the UK. As the head office of
MNS Media is in the UK, ATVOD considers that the provider falls within UK jurisdiction.
These breaches constitute an infringement of the statutory requirements: Requirement to notify an ODPS and Requirement to pay a fee.
The Video on Demand censor, ATVOD is reducing its fees by 5%.
The new tariff for the year ending 14th March 2014 retains the banded structure first adopted for 2011-12. The biggest operators pay most, and the structure offers concessionary rates for micro-scale, small-scale and non-commercial service providers.
The key decisions are:
Average fees reduced by 5%
Abolition of additional service fees: service providers can now notify all their VOD services as constituent parts of a single overarching service and therefore pay just one fee, with lower rates for those operating through a single outlet
Concessionary rates of £91 - £96 for non-commercial service providers
Concessionary rates of £137- £145 and £183 - £193 for commercial service providers with turnover below £50,000 and £100,000 respectively
A three band standard tariff based on the turnover of the service provider, with rates set at £732 - £771, £4,740 - £6,151, and £9,480 - £12,302
A cap of £25,000 on the total fees paid by any single provider
It must be a bit galling that the companies pay such high fees to investigate very few relevant complaints. All the money seems to spent on moralising, politicking and driving adult internet businesses offshore.
The Financial Times is reporting that Google will launch paid subscription channels on YouTube sometime very soon. Channels will be priced from about £ 1.30 a month. The idea would allow traditional broadcasters
to offer content to viewers
YouTube has been interested in creating more high-quality channels for some time now. Recently it awarded grants of $1million to several UK bidders who pitched channel ideas.
There is one interesting side issue here, because at some point YouTube will become, in the eyes of the UK government - and likely others - a broadcaster. When that happens, the firm is going to have to obey UK censorship laws and make sure that
under-18s are protected from unsuitable content.
Pocket-lint understands that the money YouTube gave to its channel partners to start channels was paid in advance specifically to avoid the need to be censored by ATVOD and Ofcom.
ATVOD's censorship fees are very expensive and the money is mostly spent dreaming up ways to suffocate the UK adult internet business.
YouTube is currently outside of the grasp of ATVOD as user content is specifically excused from their censorship under European law. However material from commercial channels which may be TV programmes is not exempt from TV censorship once it is under
editorial control and uploaded by the channels themselves.
ATVOD publishes determination that three adult video on demand services had breached ATVOD rules requiring video on demand
providers to ensure that under 18s cannot normally access hardcore pornographic content
ATVOD's findings - against the providers of online video on demand services Studio66 TV , G Spot Productions and Abused Piggy -- brings to 17 the number of adult suffocated by the VOD censor over the last 18 months. All of them were
operating in breach of an ATVOD rule which requires that R18 hardcore material can only be made available if access is blocked to children. The latest three services -- which operated through a total of 11 websites - offered users access to explicit
hard-core porn videos which could be viewed on-demand.
ATVOD found that the G Spot Productions service broke the statutory rules in two ways. Firstly, it allowed any visitor free, unrestricted access to hard-core pornographic video promos/trailers and still images featuring real sex in explicit
detail. Secondly, access to the full videos was open to any visitor who paid a fee. As the service accepted payment methods such as the most widely used payment by debit cards. ATVOD ruled that the service had also failed to put in place effective access
controls in relation to the full videos. As a result of ATVOD's action, the service provider removed all explicit hard-core material from the free-to-view sections of the service, and restricted access to such material to persons able to provide evidence
that they are over 18, for example by presenting a valid credit card.
The Studio66 TV service was found to have committed one breach of the statutory rules. The service did not offer free, unrestricted access to hard-core pornographic material, but did provide such material to any visitor who paid a fee. As the
service accepted payment methods such as debit cards, ATVOD ruled that the service had failed to put in place effective access controls in relation to the explicit pornographic material. As a result of ATVOD's action, the service provider restricted
access to explicit hard-core material to persons able to provide evidence that they are over 18, for example by presenting a valid credit card.
The Abused Piggy service was also found to have committed one breach of the statutory rules. Although the full catalogue of material could only be viewed by adults, the service also offered unrestricted, free-to-view access to a sample video
featuring real sex in explicit detail, and to still images featuring real sex in explicit detail and strong fetish material. As a result of ATVOD's action, the service closed.
So one service closed and the others severely restricted to customers with credit cards; who are willing to pay before they see what they would be getting; and who get to notice a site that has got nothing but a few softcore pictures to trying and
attract surfers passing briefly by.
Peter Johnson, CEO, and Ruth Evans, Chair, ATVOD pitched their case to a House of Lords Committee about why the banks should be dragooned into banning internet porn.
Interestingly, the ATVOD pair admitted that porn is the only issue that ATVOD has any complaints to look into. The other 3 areas of the ATVOD remit, sponsorship, product placement and inciting hatred have only resulted in 1 complaint between
them, and that was rejected.
So perhaps it isn't surprising that ATVOD need to big up the child protection issue, otherwise they may be out of a job.
The basic argument for enlisting the banks is that ATVOD suffocation of British companies achieves little apart from driving business offshore. then they need something to attack foreign businesses. And banking payment systems have been
suggested as the tool.
However because adult porn is basically legal, then the banks will probably not want to get involved. But ATVOD claim that the Obscene Publications Act (OPA) makes it illegal for kids to see as it supposedly 'depraves and corrupts' them. ATVOD
therefore claim that adult porn available to under 18s is therefore illegal under the OPA and hence the banks could be reasonably asked to ban payments services from porn websites.
The ATVOD pair admitted though that the OPA is hardly used with about 8 convictions in the last year.
Of course Johnson and Evans didn't mention the fundamental flaw in their claims.
How can the depiction of sex, something that nearly everybody does, be so harmful to under 18s. Especially as they are well prepared for sex via ongoing sex education and the simple fact that it is probably near the number one topic of
conversation for nearly all of society, particularly teenagers.
Porn may be undesirable, and embarrassing to parents but can it really 'seriously harm children' or else 'deprave and corrupt' them. And if it does, we should surely know about it, because they all watch the stuff anyway.
Self important ATVOD think that banks should enforce an UK ban on payments to international porn websites
28th January 2013
Presumably ATVOD are feeling a bit bad that they are totally suffocating British companies. Maybe they feel that they could level up the playing fields a little by applying their empoverishing ideas to the rest of the world.
The Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) has written to Culture Secretary Maria Miller proposing that banks should withhold payment processing to international porn sites that don't implement its ludicrously impractical age verification
ATVOD urged the Government to target banks and payment processors which facilitate the provision to UK consumers of hardcore pornography without age verification.
It claims that blocking payments, estimated to total about £ 180million a year from British customers, would be a significant step towards child internet safety.
Under the proposal, banks and other payment processors would receive a blacklist of all companies making pornography available without extreme age verification. The banks would then be responsible for ensuring that no British customer could make a
payment to any of those companies.
Peter Johnson, of ATVOD, also claimed that overseas companies are potentially in breach of the Obscene Publications Act. He admitted that the most popular porn sites often offer free hardcore pornographic images and video clips. He added:
Banks will deploy lots of arguments as to why they shouldn't be the gatekeepers for this. 'But following the money and making it difficult for these sites to earn it would be a powerful step towards reducing children's exposure to hardcore pornography.
The Government's Mary Whitehouse, Claire Perry welcomed the proposal. She said:
Recruiting the financial services into the attempt to try and make websites more responsible is a very, very good idea. There is a collective responsibility here.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the report will be considered carefully as part of a recent communications review.
Decisions uphold ATVOD determination that Business Channel was subject to regulation as an on-demand programme service, but rule that two BBC Worldwide YouTube channels were outside scope of VOD regulation
An appeal by Greystone Media Ltd against an ATVOD determination in April 2011 that its web- based video on demand service The Business Channel was an on-demand programme service and therefore subject to regulation by ATVOD has today not been
upheld by Ofcom.
However, two further appeals against ATVOD determinations in May 2011 that BBC Worldwide was providing on-demand programme services on its YouTube channels BBC Food and BBC Top Gear have today been upheld.
In order to fall victim to censorship overseen by ATVOD, a service must satisfy a number of statutory criteria, as set out in section 368A of the Communications Act 2003. One of these is that the principal purpose of the service is the provision of
programmes the form and content of which are comparable to the form and content of programmes normally included in television programme services.
To a significant extent, the outcome of all three appeals turned on whether the relevant on demand videos were comparable to television programmes.
Commenting on the decisions, ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson said:
The question of whether video content is 'comparable' to programmes normally included in television broadcasts is far from straightforward. We will now consider the appeal decisions carefully and analyse the implications for future decisions as to
whether a particular service is, or is not, subject to regulations designed to protect consumers.
Ofcom has fined Playboy £ 100,000 for failing to protect children from supposedly seriously harmful
Two websites owned by Playboy (Playboy TV and Demand Adult) allowed users to access hardcore videos and images without having the required controls in place to check that users were aged 18 or over.
Unlike other pornographic websites, Video on Demand websites are regulated by Ofcom and the Authority for Video On Demand (ATVOD).
Ofcom concluded that Playboy's failure to protect children from potentially accessing these sites was serious, repeated and reckless.
There are a number of controls that websites can use to verify the age of users. This includes asking for credit card details before any adult content is made accessible. Credit cards, unlike debit cards, are not available to under 18s.
Unfortunately for UK business, a large proportion of potential customers do not hold credit cards. And of those that do, few are willing to type in the onerous details required just to take a look round the site to see if they are interested in
subscribing. Some don't want the hassle, and some don't trust porn websites enough to hand out credit card details to sites they have not even been able to have a look round yet.
Surely it would at least be possible for debit cards to introduce a flag to indicate that the holder is known by the bank to be over 18.
Playboy TV and Demand Adult had breached UK rules by having by only have a warning and a self declaration of age in place. Both sites had hardcore imagery available before subscribing and both sites accepted debit cards for full access to video on
Ofcom claimed that due to the serious nature of these breaches, the following financial penalties have been imposed on Playboy:
Demand Adult: £ 65,000
Playboy TV: £ 35,000
Thankfully there are plenty of foreign businesses to support that are able to provide customers with what they are seeking.