UK Video on Demand censor ATVOD has called for the law to be changed to require pornography sites to carry out age checks before granting access.
It said credit and debit card operators would be forbidden from processing payments from British customers to sites that did not comply. It claimed that the matter was so urgent that it was critical the legislation is enacted during this
To back up its demand, the body commissioned market research firm Nielsen Netview to install equipment that monitored the online habits of 45,000 desktop PC and laptop users over the course of a month. The survey indicated that over the period:
6% of children aged 15 years or younger had accessed an adult website
5% of visitors to such sites had been under-18
One website alone - Pornhub - had been visited by 112,000 boys in the UK aged between 12 and 17-years-old Of the wider population,
23% of those who had used the net over the month had visited an adult site Visitors to adult sites spent an average of 15 minutes looking at them during each visit and typically clocked up two-and-a-half hours of time in total over the month
Atvod added that the survey probably underestimated the scale of the issue since smartphone and tablet use was not included in the figures.
The regulator already forces UK-based sites to carry out onerous and impractical age verification checks before explicit photographs and videos can be viewed. This can be done by requiring valid credit card details (sorry debit card holders,
these simply wont do) or other personal information that can be cross-referenced with the electoral roll or another ID database. (or used for phishing or identity theft)
Sex and Censorship, a free speech campaign group, - said the move would prove ineffective.
It won't make any difference to the sites that give all their videos away for free and sell advertising because they don't need credit card processing, said Jerry Barnett.
And some sites are already accepting bitcoin and other anonymous online payment systems. A clampdown on card payments would just accelerate this trend.
Even if implemented, this measure would have no effect on the range of content available to British consumers.
It seems strange that ATVOD aren't considering the far more practical solution of a central verification authority that is a bit more trustworthy (but not much with NSA and GCHQ snoopers) than a foreign porn site. Then for adult websites to
enforce this external age verification without being able to monitor people's personal details.
Perhaps ATVOD are happier to see websites suffocated by their impractical and dangerous rules than be allowed to thrive under a more efficient age verification scheme.
In the ATVOD press release ATVOD chair and censorship advocate Ruth Evans claimed:
We do not advocate censorship.There is nothing in the ATVOD Rules which interferes with the right to provide sexually explicit material to an adult online.
[ ...UNLESS... of course that person doesn't hold a credit car. ..OR doesn't want to provide credit card details for a quick look round. ..OR... Doesn't want to risk ID theft or phishing by typing in dangerous ID details...]
Update: As if this measure would really prevent young men from gaining access to porn
31st March 2013. Thanks to Alan
Where does ATVOD recruit idiots to work for it?
This idiocy about protecting children really pisses me off. When I was a hormonal post-pubertal lad, more than half a century ago, I had no problem finding back-street newsagents with no qualms about selling me a mucky magazine. Are
today's media-savvy young men and women going to be prevented from gaining access to porn, whatever ATVOD or control-freak parents say?
In any case, how would ATVOD ban payments? I've never yet encountered a porn site which asks you to pay directly to Filthy Films Inc. Payments are through processors like CC Bill, which guarantee discretion, so that if your vanilla other half
happens upon your Barclaycard bill he/she doesn't know that you're subscribing to Burning Bums Spanking. If they do somehow ban CC Bill, Verotel, etc. it will just be a gift to pirates with no interest in prohibiting access by young people.
ATVOD rebuff substantive legal challenge about their very existence by playing for time
14th March 2014
9th March 2014
Look Mr Atvod, that isn't legal debate, that's just simple denial and contradiction...
...No it isn't
Some Common Sense is a group describing itself as a loose alliance of individuals opposed to the introduction of government regulation of the internet in the United Kingdom.
The group has initiated a legal challenge to the very existence of ATVOD querying how it claimed its supposed powers to charge websites for censorship and then to impose fines without this actually being explicitly mentioned in UK law.
The group is focusing on challenging an enforcement action against the Jessica Pressley website run by JP Media.
The group writes:
In fact the issues lie with secondary legislation, specifically the Audiovisual Media Services Regulations 2009 & 2010 (si. 2009/2979 & si. 2010/419). We contend that the regulations confer no power on ATVOD or Ofcom to make rules or
requirements that might be breached. One cannot breach a requirement to employ CAC systems , for instance, unless one is bound to comply with such a requirement. Accordingly, we will claim, Ofcom had no power to direct that an alleged service provider
be sanctioned for failing to comply with any order, rule, regulation or subordinate instrument that ATVOD had no power to make.
Also we contend that the Regulations which became s.368NA, and s.368D(3)(za), which Ofcom found JP Media to have contravened in its notice of 23 September, are void and always were void. This is so, we will claim, because the Secretary of State
did not have power to impose taxation as delegated legislation under the enabling Act. Fees required to be paid to Ofcom or the appropriate regulatory authority are taxation meeting those principles defined in Lower Mainland Dairy Products Sales
Adjustment Committee v Crystal Dairy, Limited (British Columbia)  UKPC 70;  AC 168 . See paragraph 12 of the letter before action.
It is the strength and simplicity of these arguments that have given us confidence to consider applying for judicial review.
ATVOD recently wrote back simply to say that the claims are 'without merit' and the time limit to challenge the Jessica Pressley decision has lapsed anyway. Adding that ATVOD don't accept that Some Common Sense have the legal standing to call for
a Judicial review
Some Common Sense decide not to continue with the legal action related to the Jessica Pressley ban and explain as follows:
Very reluctantly, we felt it necessary to stop short of filing this claim with regards to the Jessica Pressley ban. Bringing legal proceedings is a serious matter which carries risks of heavy costs or of producing a
counterproductive result. In this case, for relatively complicated technical reasons, we decided at the last minute to draw back from issuing the claim. This doesn't mean that we've abandoned the argument. It just means that on the particular
case of the Jessica Pressley banning order we won't be going to Court. We are still looking for an opportunity to bring a challenge to the DCMS/Ofcom/ATVOD's unlawful arrogation of powers that only belong to Parliament and thereby to interfere
with liberty of expression on the Internet.
The Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) has published new guidance on the scope and application of the censorship rules that apply to video on demand services.
The new guidance, on which Ofcom was also consulted, does not signal a proposed change in the interpretation of the scope of the regulations, but is merely intended to provide greater clarity.
Commenting on the new guidance, ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson said:
The factors which determine whether a service is covered by the statutory regulations enforced by ATVOD are complex. The new guidance has been developed with stakeholders to ensure that it provides as much clarity as possible, especially to
businesses -- large or small - who are considering launching a service which offers on-demand access to audio-visual material.
Karaoke Nights on Channel 4 is a positive, uplifting film about people who are dealing with life's challenges in Barry, South Wales, and singing their blues away in the town's many karaoke pubs.
Programme makers said Karaoke Nights was an accurate portrayal of town life, but residents said it had depicted an unrealistic view of people's behaviour.
A Barry resident complained about the town's portrayal on Channel 4 to the Video on Demand censor, ATVOD, as he watched the programme on catch up TV.
ATVOD policy and Investigations officer Jhaapjeet Chodha went well overboard on patronising the ludicrous complainant:
After reviewing the complaint and responses from Channel 4, we have concluded that your complaint does not raise an issue which could amount to a breach of ATVOD's rules.
The statutory requirements that apply to video on-demand services are not the same as for traditional television broadcasts, and there are a limited number of situations in which ATVOD is able to take action.
We considered whether your complaint raised an issue which could amount to a potential breach of ATVOD's Rule 10 Harmful Material: Material Likely to Incite Hatred which states that an on-demand programme service must not contain any material
likely to incite hatred based on race, sex, religion or nationality or Rule 11 Harmful Material: Protection of Under Eighteens which states that 'if an on-demand programme service contains material which might seriously impair the physical,
mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen, the material must be made available in a manner which secures that such persons will not normally see or hear it.' However, the matter was not considered one which raised issues
of incitement to hatred or impairment of children's development.
ATVOD is destroying the British adult website industry by imposing rules that simply don't allow viable operation. In particular it demands that any visitor must supply a credit card (sorry debit card only holders, you are not allowed to view
porn!). And who's going to supply credit card details to a potentially dodgy porn site where they are not even allowed to look round first and see a sample of what they are buying.
ATVOD does allow alternative age verification systems but these involve typing in lost of personal information that would be a paradise for identity thieves if people were foolish enough to go along with it.
And ATVOD is able to impose these onerous rules by claiming that hardcore porn seriously harms children.
The European Audio Visual Media Services Directive provides a justification for censorship that was implemented in UK law in the Communications Act:
If an on-demand programme service contains material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen, the material must be made available in a manner which secures
that such persons will not normally see or hear it .
ATVOD claim that hardcore porn qualifies as material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen. And so the censor has the authority to impose draconian censorship.
However it is not actually proven that hardcore porn 'seriously harms' kids. Even anti-porn campaigners speak in terms of kids picking up bad attitudes rather than being seriously harmed. But given that all the kids are watching porn, and society
is getting by pretty much as normal then the case for claiming serious harm looks to be untrue. In fact if anything society seems to be getting better with crime rates on a steady decline. There doesn't seem to be a problem of Britain being
overrun by depraved, corrupt and seriously harmed children.
Perhaps ATVOD should ask some of the parents of the many children who have seen porn. Is Your child seriously harmed?. I don't suppose many will say yes. They are still just normal kids.
Alarm Bells Ring at an ATVOD board meeting
Recent minutes from ATVOD's December board meeting reveal that the censor feels a little bit under threat, and is seeking a new law that provides a firmer footing for its censorship regime. Such a law is currently being debated by the government
as indicated by board meeting minutes:
DCMS Strategy Paper
Issues relating to Access Services were discussed under item 10. The Board NOTED the Government's plans to legislate to outlaw material which goes beyond R18 and to remove any doubt that R18 material needs to be kept out of reach of children.
The Board NOTED that the proposed common framework for media standards might include provision for protection of minors, hatred, consumer protection and protecting individuals. Meetings with other media regulators were being held under Ofcom's
chairmanship to consider this issue.
ATVOD is also seeking that banks and payment services refuse payment services to adult websites by similar claims to the above that providing hardcore porn in a way that can be seen by children contravenes the Obscene Publications Act:
An article shall be deemed to be obscene if its effect or (where the article comprises two or more distinct items) the effect of any one of its items is, if taken as a whole, such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having
regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it.
Effectively ATVOD is claiming that hardcore porn depraves and corrupts kids. But again the reality of so much porn viewing and so few depraved and corrupt kids rather disproves this claim.
And in fact it seems that the banks agree that ATVOD is overstating its case. The board meeting minutes reveal:
The Board CONSIDERED the following:
The Payments Industry's conclusion that the Obscene Publications Act does not provide adequate grounds for blocking payments and that firmer statutory underpinning is required . The briefing paper to DCMS setting
out options was noted;
A working party has been established with the payments industry to consider how preventing payments might operate in practice and the Board will receive reports of meetings in November and December;
The statutory underpinning and who gathers information are two key issues to be resolved;
And perhaps most tellingly of all, ATVOD seem to admit that there is real risk to ATVOD if new legislation isn't forthcoming:
The Board APPROVED the proposed changes to the Register.
For the next update of the Risk Register consideration would be given to the risk to ATVOD of an absence of relevant legislation in relation to R18 material.
Of course if ATVOD is found to have been censoring without legal underpinning, then perhaps it would be possible for those business that have been trashed by ATVOD to claim compensation. That would surely get ATVOD panicking.
Nafforf Atvod is a loose alliance of individuals opposed to the introduction of government regulation of the internet in the United Kingdom.
Many people are probably unaware of an insidious threat to freedom of speech on the internet posed by a quango called Atvod (the Authority for TeleVision On Demand). Most people have probably never heard of Atvod. But this quango has been given
powers by another Government quango, Ofcom, to issue licences without which citizens in the UK are prohibited from making websites that consist of videos. Anyone making such a website must pay Atvod a licence fee, must allow the content to be
regulated, and may be required to verify the identity of every visitor to the website. Anyone failing to register and pay Atvod faces the possibility of a fine of up to £250,000 or greater. Anyone who ignores the directions of this
organisation commits a criminal offence, may be punished, and can be banned indefinitely from ever posting a video image on the internet again. Even if videos are merely posted to a video sharing site, even if the site is hosted in another
country, Atvod has still threatened individuals with draconian sanctions.
The idea that in a democracy we could be required to get a license before posting a video to the internet seems incredible, but this is happening now. The price of liberty is eternal vigilence. Unless Atvod is opposed, and made to respect our
right to freedom to express ideas and exchange information, there will be no end to censorship of the internet.
Nafforf Atvod has been formed with the intention of opposing this threat to freedom of expression by challenging the legality of the actions of Atvod and Ofcom. Nafforf Atvod proposes to do this by writing to Ofcom to demand that it reins in
Atvod. If necessary Nafforf Atvod will apply to the Court for permission to seek judicial review on behalf of its supporters.
That is why we need your support. Your support is the legitimacy to oppose Atvod. The more supporters we have, the greater the legitimacy of a claim to represent a broad spectrum of internet users. Please follow us on twitter, @NafforfAtvod, or
e-mail us at
firstname.lastname@example.org with the word support in the title.
Draft letter before action
Below is the text of a draft of a letter before action that it is proposed to send to Ofcom. Under Court rules Ofcom is obliged to reply within 14 days stating whether or not it concedes the case in whole or in part. The core of the claim
is that for technical reasons Ofcom/ATVOD had no lawful power to make rules requiring age verification. Neither is the requirement to pay ATVOD fees lawful. Therefore Ofcom acted unlawfully in issuing a direction that a website called Jessica
Pressley should be shut down following findings that it had not notified , paid a fee and instituted age verification checks. This action is being pursued to protect a matter of principle, on the basis that everyone has a right to be
able to receive information and ideas from any source without interference from a public authority. It isn't being pursued on behalf of the Jessica Pressley website, or any other private interest. Jessica Pressley has had no
involvement with the bringing of this case.
Because the statutory requirements are unambiguous, Ofcom has (hopefully) very little room to make a defence. It is hoped therefore that Ofcom will concede the issue and reign in ATVOD without the matter needing to go to Court. But if it is
necessary to apply for judicial review we are quietly confident (albeit in advance of a response from Ofcom) that we would succeed.