The government is braced for criticism next week over an anticipated delay in its prospective curbs on under 18s' access to hardcore porn sites.
The current timetable culminating in the implementation of UK porn censorship by the end of the year required that the final censorship guidelines are presented to MPs before they go on holiday on Thursday. They will then be ready to approve them
when they return to work in the autumn. It sound like they won't be ready for publishing by this Thursday.
The BBFC noted that they were due to send the results of the public consultation along with the BBFC censorship rules to the government by late May of this year so presumably the government is still pondering what to do.
'Best practice' just like Facebook and Cambridge Analytica
Back in April when the BBFC initiated its rather naive draft rules for public consultation its prose tried to suggest that we can trust age verifiers with our most sensitive porn browsing data because they will voluntarily follow 'best practice'.
But in light of the major industry player, in this case Facebook, allowing Cambridge Analytica to so dramatically abuse our personal data, the hope that these people will follow best practice' is surely forlorn.
And there was the implementation of GDPR. The BBFC seemed to think that this was all that was needed to keep our data safe. But when t comes down to it all GDPR seems to have done is to train us, like Pavlov's dogs, to endlessly tick the consent
box for all these companies to do what the hell they like with our data.
Then there was a nice little piece of research this week that revealed that network level ISP filtering of porn has next to no impact on preventing young porn seekers from obtaining their kicks. The research notes seems to suggest that it is not
enough to block porn one lad because he has 30 mates whose house he can round to surf the web there, or else it only takes a few lads to be able to download porn and it will soon be circulated to the whole community on a memory stick or whatever.
Mass Buy in
I guess the government is finding it tough to find age verification ideas that are both convenient for adult users, whilst remaining robust about preventing access by the under 18s. I think the governments needs to find a solution that will
achieve a mass buy in by adult users. If the adults don't want to play ball with the age verification process, then the first fall back position is for them to use a VPN. I know that from my use of VPNS that they are very good, and once you turn
it on then I find it gets left on all day. I am sure millions of people using VPNs would not go down well with the security services on the trail of more serious crimes than under age porn viewing.
I think the most likely age verification method proposed to date that has a chance of a mass buy-in is the AVSecure system of anonymously buying a porn access card from a local shop, and using a PIN, perhaps typed in once a day. Then they are able
to browse without further hassle on all participating websites. But I think it would require a certain pragmatism from government to accept this idea, as it would be so open to over 18s buying a card and then selling the PIN to under 18s, or
perhaps sons nicking their Dad's PINS when they see the card lying around, (or even perhaps installing a keyboard logger to nick the password).
The government would probably like something more robust where PINS have to be matched to people's proven ID. But I think pron users would be stupid to hand over their ID to anyone on the internet who can monitor porn use. The risks are enormous,
reputational damage, blackmail, fraud etc, and in this nasty PC world, the penalty of the most trivial of moral transgressions is to lose your job or even career.
A path to failure
The government is also setting out on a path when it can do nothing but fail. The Telegraph piece mentioned above is already lambasting the government for not applying the rules to social media websites such as Twitter, that host a fair bit of
porn. The Telegraph comments:
Children will be free to watch explicit X-rated sex videos on social media sites because of a loophole in a new porn crackdown, Britain's chief censor has admitted.
David Austin, chief executive of the BBFC, has been charged by ministers with enforcing new laws that require people to prove they are over 18 to access porn sites. However, writing for telegraph.co.uk, Mr Austin admitted it would not be a silver
bullet as online porn on sites such as Facebook and YouTube would escape the age restrictions. Social media companies will not be required to carry age-verification for pornographic content on their platforms. He said it was a matter for
government to review this position.
Nobody seems to have heard much about the progress of the BBFC consultation about the process to censor internet porn in the UK.
The sketchy timetable laid out so far suggests that the result of the consultation should be published prior to the Parliamentary recess scheduled for 26th July. Presumably this would provide MPs with some light reading over their summer hols
ready for them to approve as soon as the hols are over.
Maybe this publication may have to be hurried along though, as pesky MPs are messing up Theresa May's plans for a non-Brexit, and she would like to send them packing a week early before they can cause trouble. ( Update
18th July . The early holidays idea has now been shelved).
The BBFC published meeting minutes this week that mentions the consultation:
The public consultation on the draft Guidance on Age Verification Arrangements and the draft Guidance on Ancillary Service Providers closed on 23 April. The BBFC received 620 responses, 40 from organisations and 580 from individuals. Many of the
individual responses were encouraged by a campaign organised by the Open Rights Group.
Our proposed response to the consultation will be circulated to the Board before being sent to DCMS on 21 May.
So assuming that the response was sent to the government on the appointed day then someone has been sitting on the results for quite a long time now.
Meanwhile its good to see that people are still thinking about the monstrosity that is coming our way. Ethical porn producer Erica Lust has been speaking to News Internationalist. She comments on the way the new law will compound MindGeek's
monopolitistc dominance of the online porn market:
The age verification laws are going to disproportionately affect smaller low-traffic sites and independent sex workers who cannot cover the costs of installing age verification tools.
It will also impact smaller sites by giving MindGeek even more dominance in the adult industry. This is because the BBFC draft guidance does not enforce sites to offer more than one age verification product. So, all of MindGeeks sites (again,
90% of the mainstream porn sites) will only offer their own product; Age ID. The BBFC have also stated that users do not have to verify their age on each visit if access is restricted by password or a personal ID number. So users visiting a
MindGeek site will only have to verify their age once using AgeID and then will be able to login to any complying site without having to verify again. Therefore, viewers will be less likely to visit competitor sites not using the AgeID
technology, and simultaneously competitor sites will feel pressured to use AgeID to protect themselves from losing viewers.
Moralists campaigners of Morality in Media (now calling themselves the National Center on Sexual Exploitation) is well impressed
by the US streaming service Roku. The campaigners write:
A popular media streaming company is being called out for helping the public gain secretive access to pornography channels.
Dawn Hawkins of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation says Roku has a backdoor to private, sexually explicit channels while other competitors have stayed away from hardcore pornography.
They are facilitating access to hardcore pornography channels - hundreds of private and hidden channels - and none of the other streaming companies allow this.
Hawkins says the company is not even hiding its affiliation with hardcore porn. In fact, she says, the porn industry advertises the accessibility via Roku.
National Center helps parents protect their children from objectionable content so it has a step-by-step guide to help parents block content. But there is one streaming service without parental controls -- Roku.
The war on drill rages on. Some of its most popular videos have been banned from YouTube. 1011, a prominent rap group, is now
banned from making music with any mention of death or injury, and must inform police about all upcoming videos and shows.
In June, the police gained a court order that effectively bans drill music being made without their permission. However, even if YouTube has deemed the genre as too explicit or dangerous, it's not too explicit for Pornhub, where some drill videos
are now being uploaded.
DJ and presenter Tim Westwood's broadcasting of drill artists is turning up on Pornhub. His Crib Sessions with BSIDE , 1011 , and Zone have appeared on the adult film site, after being pulled down from YouTube, alongside a host of 1011's music
videos which made their way onto the site over the weekend.
The winners of the 2018 XRCO Awards have been announced.
The two biggest winners, by little surprise, were Angela White and Greg Lansky, who picked up three trophies each including Female Performer of the Year for White and Best Director (Non-Features) for Lansky.