The Government has been very secretive about its progress towards the starting of internet censorship for porn in the UK. Meanwhile the appointed internet porn censor, the BBFC, has withdrawn into its shell to hide from the flak. It has uttered hardly a
helpful word on the subject in the last six months, just at a time when newspapers have been printing uniformed news items based on old guesstimates of when the scheme will start.
The last target date was specified months ago when DCMS minister Margot
James suggested that it was intended to get the scheme going around Easter of 2019. This date was not achieved but the newspapers seem to have jumped to the conclusion that the scheme would start on 1st April 2019. The only official response to this
false news is that the DCMS will now be announcing the start date shortly.
So what has been going on?
Well it seems that maybe the government realised that asking porn websites and age verification services to demand that porn users
identify themselves without any real legal protection on how that data can be used is perhaps not the wisest thing to do. Jim Killock of Open Rights Group explains that the delays are due to serious concerns about privacy and data collection:
When they consulted about the shape of age verification last summer they were surprised to find that nearly everyone who wrote back to them in that consultation said this was a privacy disaster and they need to make sure
people's data doesn't get leaked out.
Because if it does it could be that people are outed, have their relationships break down, their careers could be damaged, even for looking at legal material.
delays have been very much to do with the fact that privacy has been considered at the last minute and they're having to try to find some way to make these services a bit safer. It's introduced a policy to certify some of the products as better for
privacy (than others) but it's not compulsory and anybody who chooses one of those products might find they (the companies behind the sites) opt out of the privacy scheme at some point in the future.
And there are huge commercial
pressures to do this because as we know with Facebook and Google user data is extremely valuable, it tells you lots about what somebody likes or dislikes or might want or not want.
So those commercial pressures will kick in and
they'll try to start to monetise that data and all of that data if it leaked out would be very damaging to people so it should simply never be collected.
So the government has been working on a voluntary kite mark scheme to approve
age verifiers that can demonstrate to an auditor they will keep user data safe. This scheme seems to be in its early stages as the audit policy was first outlines to age verifiers on 13th March 2019. AvSecure reported on Twitter:
Friday saw several AV companies meet with the BBFC & the accreditation firm, who presented the framework & details of the proposed scheme.
Whilst the scheme itself seems very deep & comprehensive,
there were several questions asked that we are all awaiting answers on.
The Register reports that AgeID has already commissioned a data security audit using the information security company, the NCC Group. Perhaps that company can
therefore be rapidly approved by the official auditor, whose identity seems to being kept secret.
So the implementation schedule must presumably be that the age verifiers get audited over the next couple of months and then after that the
government can give websites the official 3 months notice required to give websites time to implement the now accredited age verification schemes.
The commencement date will perhaps be about 5 or 6 months from now.
The BBFC has made a pretty poor show of setting out guidelines for the technical implementation of age verification, and now the Stop Age Verification campaign has pointed out that the BBFC has made legal errors about text porn
The BBFC seems a little behind the curve in its role as porn censor. Its initial draft of its guidelines gave absolutely no concern for the safety and well being of porn users. The BBFC spoke of incredibly sensitive identity and browsing date being
entrusted to adult websites and age verifiers, purely on the forlorn hope that these companies would follow 'best practice' voluntary guidelines to keep the data safe. The BBFC offered next to no guidelines that defined how age verification should work
and what it really needs to do.
As time has moved on, it has obviously occurred to the BBFC or the government that this was simply not good enough, so we are now waiting on the implementation of some sort of kite marking scheme to try to provide at
least a modicum of trust in age verifiers to keep this sensitive data safe.
But even in this period of rework, the BBFC hasn't been keeping interested parties informed of what's going on. The BBFC seem very reluctant to advise or inform anyone of
anything. Perhaps the rework is being driven by the government and maybe the BBFC isn't in a position to be any more helpful.
Anyway it is interesting to note that in an
article from stopageverification.org.uk , that the BBFC has been reported to being overstepping the remit of the age verification laws
contained in the Digital Economy Act:
All types of pornographic content are within the scope of the legislation. The legislation does not exclude audio or text from its definition of pornography. All providers of commercial online pornography to persons in the UK are
required to comply with the age-verification requirement.
Pornographic material is defined in s.15 of the act. This sets out nine categories of material. Material is defined in that section (15(2) as material means204 (a) a series of visual images shown as a moving picture, with
or without sound; (b) a still image or series of still images, with or without sound; or (c) sound;
It clearly doesn't mention text.
The BBFC need to be clear in their role as Age Verifier.
They can only apply the law as enacted by Parliament. If they seek to go beyond that they could be at risk of court action.
The BBFC has launched an innovative new industry collaboration with Netflix to move towards classifying all content on the service using BBFC age ratings.
Netflix will produce BBFC age ratings for content using a manual
tagging system along with an automated rating algorithm, with the BBFC taking up an auditing role. Netflix and the BBFC will work together to make sure Netflix's classification process produces ratings which are consistent with the BBFC's Classification
Guidelines for the UK.
It comes as new research by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and the Video Standards Council Rating Board (VSC) has revealed that almost 80% of parents are concerned about children seeing
inappropriate content on video on demand or online games platforms.
The BBFC and the VSC have joined forces to respond to calls from parents and are publishing a joint set of Best Practice Guidelines to help online services
deliver what UK consumers want.
The Best Practice Guidelines will help online platforms work towards greater and more consistent use of trusted age ratings online. The move is supported by the Department for Digital, Culture,
Media and Sport as part of the Government's strategy to make the UK the safest place to be online.
This includes recommending the use of consistent and more comprehensive use of BBFC age labelling symbols across all Video On
Demand (VOD) services, and PEGI symbols across online games services, including additional ratings info and mapping parental controls to BBFC age ratings and PEGI ratings.
The voluntary Guidelines are aimed at VOD services
offering video content to UK consumers via subscription, purchase and rental, but exclude pure catch-up TV services like iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My 5 and UKTV Player.
The research also shows that 90% of parents believe that it is
important to display age ratings when downloading or streaming a film online, and 92% of parents think it's important for video on demand platforms to show the same type of age ratings they would expect at the cinema or on DVD and Blu-ray 203 confirmed
by 94% of parents saying it's important to have consistent ratings across all video on demand platforms, rather than a variety of bespoke ratings systems.
With nine in 10 (94%) parents believing it is important to have consistent
ratings across all online game platforms rather than a variety of bespoke systems, the VSC is encouraging services to join the likes of Microsoft, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo and Google in providing consumers with the nationally recognised PEGI ratings on
games - bringing consistency between the offline and online worlds.
The Video Recordings Act requires that the majority of video works and video games released on physical media must be classified by the BBFC or the VSC prior to
release. While there is no equivalent legal requirement that online releases must be classified, the BBFC has been working with VOD services since 2008, and the VSC has been working with online games platforms since 2003. The Best Practice Guidelines aim
to build on the good work that is already happening, and both authorities are now calling for the online industry to work with them in 2019 and beyond to better protect children.
David Austin, Chief Executive of the BBFC, said:
Our research clearly shows a desire from the public to see the same trusted ratings they expect at the cinema, on DVD and on Blu-ray when they choose to watch material online. We know that it's not just parents who
want age ratings, teenagers want them too. We want to work with the industry to ensure that families are able to make the right decisions for them when watching content online.
Ian Rice, Director General of the VSC,
We have always believed that consumers wanted a clear, consistent and readily recognisable rating system for online video games and this research has certainly confirmed that view. While the vast majority of
online game providers are compliant and apply PEGI ratings to their product, it is clear that more can be done to help consumers make an informed purchasing decision. To this end, the best practice recommendations will certainly make a valuable
contribution in achieving this aim.
Digital Minister Margot James said:
Our ambition is for the UK to be the safest place to be online, which means having age ratings parents know
and trust applied to all online films and video games. I welcome the innovative collaboration announced today by Netflix and the BBFC, but more needs to be done.
It is important that more of the industry takes this
opportunity for voluntary action, and I encourage all video on demand and games platforms to adopt the new best practice standards set out by the BBFC and Video Standards Council.
The BBFC is looking at innovative ways to open up
access to its classifications to ensure that more online video content goes live with a trusted age rating. Today the BBFC and Netflix announce a year-long self-ratings pilot which will see the online streaming service move towards in-house
classification using BBFC age ratings, under licence.
Netflix will use an algorithm to apply BBFC Guideline standards to their own content, with the BBFC setting those standards and auditing ratings to ensure consistency. The goal
is to work towards 100% coverage of BBFC age ratings across the platform.
Mike Hastings, Director of Editorial Creative at Netflix, said:
The BBFC is a trusted resource in the UK for providing
classification information to parents and consumers and we are excited to expand our partnership with them. Our work with the BBFC allows us to ensure our members always press play on content that is right for them and their families.
David Austin added:
We are fully committed to helping families chose content that is right for them, and this partnership with Netflix will help us in our goal to do just that. By partnering with
the biggest streaming service, we hope that others will follow Netflix's lead and provide comprehensive, trusted, well understood age ratings and ratings info, consistent with film and DVD, on their UK platforms. The partnership shows how the industry
are working with us to find new and innovative ways to deliver 100% age ratings for families.
We met to discuss BBFC's voluntary age verification privacy scheme, but BBFC did not attend. Open Rights Group met a number of age verification providers to discuss the privacy standards that they will be meeting when the scheme launches,
slated for April. Up to 20 million UK adults are expected to sign up to these products.
We invited all the AV providers we know about, and most importantly, the BBFC, at the start of February. BBFC are about to launch a voluntary
privacy standard which some of the providers will sign up to. Unfortunately, BBFC have not committed to any public consultation about the scheme, relying instead on a commercial provider to draft the contents with providers, but without wider feedback
from privacy experts and people who are concerned about users.
We held the offices close to the BBFC's offices in order that it would be convenient for them to send someone that might be able to discuss this with us. We have been
asking for meetings with BBFC about the privacy issues in the new code since October 2018: but have not received any reply or acknowledgement of our requests, until this morning, when BBFC said they would be unable to attend today's roundtable. This is
BBFC's failure to consult the public about this standard, or even to meet us to discuss our concerns, is alarming. We can understand that BBFC is cautious and does not wish to overstep its relationship with its
new masters at DCMS. BBFC may be worried about ORG's attitude towards the scheme: and we certainly are critical. However, it is not responsible for a regulator to fail to talk to its potential critics.
We are very clear about our
objectives. We are acting to do our best to ensure the risk to adult users of age verification technologies are minimised. We do not pose a threat to the scheme as a whole: listening to us can only result in making the pornographic age verification
scheme more likely to succeed, and for instance, to avoid catastrophic failures.
Privacy concerns appear to have been recognised by BBFC and DCMS as a result of consultation responses from ORG supporters and others, which resulted
in the voluntary privacy standard. These concerns have also been highlighted by Parliament, whose regulatory committee expressed surprise that the Digital Economy Act 2017 had contained no provision to deal with the privacy implications of pornographic
Today's meeting was held to discuss:
What the scheme is likely to cover; and what it ideally should cover;
Whether there is any prospect of making the scheme compulsory;
What should be done about non-compliant
What the governance of the scheme should be in the long tern, for instance whether it might be suitable to become an ICO backed code, or complement such as code
As we communicated to BBFC in December 2018, we have considerable worries about the lack of consultation over the standard they are writing, which appears to be truncated in order to meet the artificial deadline of April this year.
This is what we explained to BBFC in our email:
Security requires as many perspectives to be considered as possible.
The best security standards eg PCI DSS are developed in the open and iterated
The standards will be
best if those with most to lose are involved in the design.
For PCI DSS, the banks and their customers have more to lose than the processors
For Age Verification, site users have more to lose than the processors, however only the processors seem likely to be
involved in setting the standard
We look forward to BBFC agreeing to meet us to discuss the outcome of the roundtable we held about their scheme, and to discuss our concerns about the new voluntary privacy standard. Meanwhile, we will produce a note from the meeting,
which we believe was useful. It covered the concerns above, and issues around timing, as well as strategies for getting government to adjust their view of the absence of compulsory standards, which many of the providers want. In this, BBFC are a critical
actor. ORG also intends as a result of the meeting to start to produce a note explaining what an effective privacy scheme would cover, in terms of scope, risks to mitigate, governance and enforcement for participants.
Lords of Chaos is a UK / Sweden thriller by Jonas Åkerlund. Starring Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen and Sky Ferreira.
A teenager's quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in
Oslo in the 1980s Members of the Norwegian death metal band perform a series of increasingly shocking publicity stunts leading to a very violent outcome.
It is based on real-life band Mayhem, and includes scenes of murder
including the brutal killing of a homosexual man - and the burning of churches by satanists.
The latest most controversial film ever has been passed 18 uncut by the BBFC for strong bloody violence, gore, suicide.
the Telegraph the BBFC are understood to have been so concerned about the film that it was reviewed at the highest levels and suicide prevention experts were consulted before it was approved for an 18 certificate.
The Telegraph suggests the US
film censors at the MPAA were similarly concerned before rating it R for strong brutal violence, disturbing behavior, grisly images, strong sexuality, nudity, and pervasive language.
The BBFC said the film did not glamorise self-harm and
that there was no reason to think the film would have a damaging effect on adults who chose to view it - although some might find it distressing.
Church groups have, however, have called for it to be banned. Speaking to The Telegraph, Simon
Calvert, deputy director of The Christian Institute, said he was surprised the film had not been banned given the recent discussion about self-harm. He said:
In the current climate of concern over self-harm and
suicide, you would have thought there might have been more consideration of the risk that vulnerable people might imitate what they see. The distributors ought to be asking themselves if it is worth this risk.'
The film is being
distributed in the United Kingdom by Arrow Films and will be released in cinemas on 29th March.
The upcoming UK internet porn censorship regime being introduced later this year has set the UK authorities to thinking about a more rational set of laws governing what porn is legal and what porn is illegal in the UK. It makes a lot of sense to get the
UK stall straight before the commencement of the new censorship regime.
The most contradictory area of porn law is that often referred to as 'beyond R18 porn'. This includes material historically banned by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) claiming
obscenity, ie fisting, golden showers, BDSM, female ejaculation, and famously from a recent anti censorship campaign, face sitting/breath play. Such material is currently cut from R18s, as censored and approved by the BBFC.
When the age
verification law first came before parliament, 'beyond R18' porn was set to be banned outright. However as some of these categories are commonplace in worldwide porn, then the BBFC would have had to block practically all the porn websites in the world,
leaving hardly any that stuck to R18 guidelines that would be acceptable for viewing after age verification. So the lawmakers dropped the prohibition, and this 'beyond R18' material will now be acceptable for viewing after age verification. This leaves
the rather clear contradiction that the likes of fisting and female ejaculation would be banned or cut by the BBFC for sale in UK sex shops, but would have to be allowed by the BBFC for viewing online.
This contradiction has now been squared by
the government deciding that 'beyond R18' pornography is now legal for sale in the UK. So the BBFC will now have a unified set of rules, specified by the CPS, covering both the censorship of porn sales in the UK and the blocking of foreign websites.
This legalisation of 'beyond R18' porn will surely disappoint a few censorial politicians in the House of Lords, notably Elspeth Howe. She has already tabled a private members bill to restore the ban on any foreign websites including 'beyond R18'
porn. Her bill has now been rendered mostly irrelevant.
However there is still one genre of pornography that is sticking out of line, and that is cartoon porn featuring under age characters. Such porn is widespread in anime but strictly banned
under UK law. So given the large amounts of Japanese Hentai porn on the most popular tube sites in the world, then those videos could still be an issue for the viability of the age classification regime and could still end up with all the major porn
sites in the world banned.
The new CPS censorship rules
The new rules have already come into force, they started on 28th January 2019.
A CPS spokesperson confirmed the change saying
It is not for the CPS to decide what is considered good taste or objectionable. We do not propose to bring charges based on material that depicts consensual and legal activity between adults, where no serious harm is caused and the
likely audience is over the age of 18.
The CPS will, however, continue to robustly apply the law to anything which crosses the line into criminal conduct and serious harm.
It seems a little bit rich for the CPS
to claim that It is not for the CPS to decide what is considered good taste or objectionable, when they have happily been doing exactly that for the last 30 years.
The CPS originally outlined the new rules in a public consultation that
started in July 2018. The key proposals read:
When considering whether the content of an article is “obscene”, prosecutors should distinguish between:
Content showing or realistically depicting criminal conduct (whether non-consensual activity, or consensual activity where serious harm is caused), which is likely to be obscene;
Content showing or realistically depicting other conduct which is lawful,
which is unlikely to be obscene.
Do consultees agree or disagree with the guidance that prosecutors must exercise real caution when dealing with the moral nature of acts not criminalized by law, and that the showing or realistic
depiction of sexual activity / pornography which does not constitute acts or conduct contrary to the criminal law is unlikely to be obscene?
The following conduct (notwithstanding previous guidance indicating
otherwise) will not likely fall to be prosecuted under the Act:
Activity involving bodily substances (including urine, vomit, blood and faeces)
Infliction of pain / torture
Bondage / restraint
Placing objects into the urethra
Any other sexual activity not prohibited by law
It is consensual;
No serious harm is caused;
It is not otherwise inextricably linked with other criminality; and
The likely audience is not under 18 or otherwise vulnerable.
When considering whether the content of an article is "obscene", prosecutors should distinguish between:
Content relating to criminal conduct (whether non-consensual activity, or consensual activity where serious harm is caused, or otherwise inextricably linked to criminality), which is likely to be obscene;
Content relating to other non-criminal conduct, which is unlikely to be obscene, provided the audience is not young or otherwise vulnerable.
Conduct will not likely fall to be prosecuted under the Act provided that:
It is consensual (focusing on full and freely exercised consent, and also where the provision of consent is made clear where such consent may not be easily determined from the material itself); and
serious harm is caused (whether physical or other, and applying the guidance above at paragraph 17); and
It is not otherwise inextricably linked with other criminality (so as to encourage emulation or fuelling interest or
normalisation of criminality); and
The likely audience is not under 18 (having particular regard to where measures have been taken to ensure that the audience is not under 18) or otherwise vulnerable (as a result of their
physical or mental health, the circumstances in which they may come to view the material, the circumstances which may cause the subject matter to have a particular impact or resonance or any other relevant circumstance).
Note that extreme pornography is considered illegal so will likely be considered obscene too. But the CPS adds a few additional notes of harmful porn that will continue to be illegal:
show or depict the infliction of serious harm may be considered to be obscene publications because they show criminal assault notwithstanding the consent of the victim. This includes dismemberment and graphic mutilation. It includes asphyxiation causing
unconsciousness, which is more than transient and trifling, and given its danger is serious.
So it seems that breath play will be allowed as long as it doesn't lead to unconsciousness. Another specific rule is that gags do not in
themselves imply a lack of consent:
Non-consent for adults must be distinguished from consent to relinquish control. The presence of a gag or other forms of bondage does not, without more, suffice to confirm that
sexual activity was non-consensual.
The BBFC changes its R18 rules
The BBFC has several roles, it works in an advisory role when classifying cinema films, it works as an independent and mandatory censor when
classifying mainstream videos, but it works directly under government rules when censoring pornographic films. And in this last role, it uses unpublished guidelines based on rules provided by the CPS.
The BBFC has informed BBC News that it will
indeed use the updated CPS guidelines when censoring porn. The BBC explains:
The BBFC's guidelines forbid material judged to be obscene under the current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act.
A spokeswoman told the BBC: Because the Obscene Publications Act does not define what types of
material are likely to be considered obscene, we rely upon guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as to what classes of material they consider likely to be suitable for prosecution.
We are aware that the CPS have
updated their guidance on Obscene Publications today and we have now adjusted our own internal policies to reflect that revised guidance.
Myles Jackman And Pandora Blake
And a thank you to two of the leading
campaigners calling for the CPS to lighten up on its censorship rules.
Obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman, who has campaigned for these changes for a number of years, told Yahoo News UK that the change had wider
implications for the law. He said:
"It is a very impressive that they've introduced the idea of full and freely exercised consent in the law.
"Even for people with no interest in
pornography this is very important for consent and bodily autonomy."
Activist and queer porn filmmaker Pandora Blake, who also campaigned to have the ban on the depiction of certain sex acts overturned, called
the news a 'welcome improvement'. They said:
"This is a happy day for queer, feminist and fetish porn."
Acts that were banned that can now be depicted include:
The Favourite is a 2018 Ireland / UK / USA historical comedy biography by Yorgos Lanthimos. Starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.
Early 18th century. England is at war with the French.
Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne's ill health and mercurial temper.
When a new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail
steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen's companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfill her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way.
The BBFC passed the Oscars
contender, The Favourite as 15 uncut for very strong language, strong sex, but cinema goers have been left disappointed as the sex content fails to live up to expectations.
According to the Daily Mail social media is awash with complaints about
the misleading warning. Posts published by the newspaper suggest that the mild sex that the movie contains may be have been uprated to 'strong sex' because of its lesbian flavour. Eg one fan wrote:
#TheFavourite, which is wonderful from start to finish, is preceded by a content warning about 'strong sex. It's actually mild sex, which has presumably been promoted to strong sex because it happens to be gay sex,'
The BBFC defended
their consumer advice claiming the film had the strong sex tagline primarily for the heterosexual activity.
The BBFC has changed its slogan from: "Age ratings you trust" , to the rather bizarre: " View what's right for you"
The new slogan seems a little strange to me, as it rather misses the point as to what age ratings are
about. Surely the essence of age ratings is something more along the lines Avoid what's not right for children in your care. But the BBFC is addressing their slogan directly to your viewing rather than your children's, as if they know
better than you, what is right for you.
Presumably the BBFC is trying to avoid a negative concept, and has tried to make it a more positive message. The BBFC is probably thinking that its detailed consumer advice provides enough details to help
viewers decide whether they want to watch for themselves. But the slogan does not make this clear, and it seems likely to be read as if it is the BBFC that decides what is right for you. Then being 'right' comes across as presumptive, nannyish, or even
It is also interesting to speculate why the BBFC ditched its old slogan: "Age ratings you trust". It's surely a little awkward as it would come across as a proven lie to any reader who disagrees with BBFC decisions.
Also as the BBFC moves into internet censorship, the concept of 'trust' is a little dangerous. The BBFC will be forcing porn users to 'trust' age verifiers without any real protection in law to ensure that age verifiers keep the ID and browsing
history of porn viewers secret. It is only a matter of time before data is found being sold to advertisers or worse, or else data is hacked, stolen or misused. The Government have already paid for insurance should the BBFC get sued by people whose lives
get trashed by such data getting into the wrong hands. It is simply not wise for the BBFC to suggest 'trust' when this may be used in court against them.
Reports from the launch meeting for the recent publication of updated BBFC guidelines reveals some of the politically correct nonsense underpinning the changes.
thetelegraphandargus.co.uk reports that film censors have hit back at what has been deemed the
pornification of culture. The BBFC has announced that the creeping-in of pornographic themes to popular culture is of major concern to the British viewing public.
The animated comedy Sausage Party was singled out as an example of where
cinema has borrowed from the world of porn. The new guidelines prescribe higher age ratings for works with sexual violence, darkly realistic themes, and films steeped in the language of pornography.
Speaking at their launch in London, BBFC head of
compliance Craig Lapper said:
I think there's a tendency for people to assume that everything must be increasingly more liberal. It always has that possibility of reaching a point and going the other way.
Public views are changing. This partly comes from the pornification of culture and whether almost borrowing from porn, cruder, stronger and harder sexual references are making their way into mainstream entertainment.
I think it's about the borrowing of themes and images from porn, and the visuals of pornography. It's all more available than it used to be when you had to go into a sex shop.
One film was Sausage Party. We had
a lot of feedback. We heard from all sort of people about that, including teenagers. Of course they had watched it.
There is a scene in the film where animated vegetables engage in an orgy. It's crude.
Actually perhaps they (the public) feel that we need to rein it in. I think it's just the because it's so widespread and available.
There were relatively few changes in the 2019 BBFC Guidelines updated. The one's I spotted were:
Dangerous Behaviour at U
Previously potentially dangerous or anti-social behaviour which young children may copy can only appear in U
rated film if it is clearly disapproved. Now such behaviour can also be included if it is presented unrealistically.
Nudity at 15
The BBFC is now allowing 'strong nudity' at 15, presumably
referring to erections, is allowed if brief or presented in a comic context.
Sex references at 15
The BBFC has upgraded dirty talk to 18. A new rule has appeared stating:
Repeated very strong references, particularly those using pornographic language, are unlikely to be acceptable.
Sexual Violence and Sexual Threat at 12
A new section has appeared which
builds on rules previously in the violence section. The 2014 rules included the following
Sexual violence may only be implied or briefly and discreetly indicated, and its depiction must be justified by context.
The new section reads:
There may be verbal references to sexual violence provided they are not graphic.
The stronger forms of sexual violence, including rape, may
only be implied and any sexual threat or abusive behaviour must be brief and negatively presented.
So now the previously allowed brief and discreet indication of sexual violence is no longer allowed at 12.
Violence and Sexual Threat at 15
A new section has appeared which builds on rules previously in the violence section. The 2014 rules included the following:
There may be detailed verbal references to sexual violence but
the depiction of sexual violence must be discreet and justified by context.
The new section reads:
There may be strong verbal references to sexual violence but any depiction of the
stronger forms of sexual violence, including rape, must not be detailed or prolonged.
A strong and sustained focus on sexual threat is unacceptable.
The upshot is that strong and
sustained sexual threat is no longer allowed at 15.
The BBFC has deleted its prohibition on penetration with items associated with violence although it retains the prohibition of items that may cause physical harm.
gaystarnews.com has published an article outlining the dangers of porn viewers
submitting their identity data and browsing history to age verifiers and their websites. The article explains that the dangers for gay porn viewers are even mor pronounced that for straight viewers. The artisle illustrates this with an example:
David Bridle, the publisher of Dirty Boyz , announced in October that last month's issue of the magazine would be its last. He said:
Following the Conservative government's
decision ... to press ahead with new regulations forcing websites which make money from adult content to carry an age verification system ... Dirtyboyz and its website dirtyboyz.xxx have made the decision to close.
The new age
verification system will be mostly run by large adult content companies which themselves host major "Tube" style porn sites. 'It would force online readers of Dirtyboyz to publicly declare themselves.
Open Rights Group executive director, Jim Killock, told GSN the privacy of users needs protecting:
The issue with age verification systems is that they need to know it's you. This means there's a strong likelihood that it will basically track you and know what you're watching. And that's data that could be very
harmful to people.
It could cause issues in relationships. Or it could see children outed to their parents. It could mean people are subjected to scams and blackmail if that data falls into criminal hands. Government response
A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told Gay Star News:
Pornographic websites and age verification services will be subject to the UK's existing high
standard of data protection legislation. The Data Protection Act 2018 provides a comprehensive and modern framework for data protection, with strong sanctions for malpractice and enforced by the Information Commissioner's Office.
this is bollox, the likes of Facebook and Google are allowed to sell browsing data for eg targeted advertising within the remit of GDPR. And targeted advertising could be enough in itself to out porn viewers.
BBFC launches new Classification Guidelines and calls for greater age rating consistency across online channels
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) has published new Classification Guidelines, and in
response to public demand is calling for greater consistency for age ratings across different platforms.
The BBFC's public consultation - involving more than 10,000 people -- showed that young people and parents want to see an
increase in classification guidance, particularly around online content, as well as more consistency across all platforms.
Demand for age classification has never been higher, with 97% of people saying they benefit from age
ratings being in place. 91% of people (and 95% of teenagers) want consistent age ratings that they recognise from the cinema and DVD to apply to content accessed through streaming services.
David Austin, Chief Executive Officer at
the BBFC, said: Over the last five years the way we consume film and video has changed beyond all recognition. That's why it's so important that there is consistency between what people watch on and offline. The research shows that parents and teenagers
want us to give them the information and guidance that they need to view what's right for them.
The BBFC's consultation confirms that people feel a heightened sense of anxiety when it comes to depictions of real world scenarios,
in which audiences -- especially young people -- are likely to be concerned that it could happen to them. For example, realistic contemporary scenarios showing terrorism, self-harm, suicide and discriminatory behaviour. This research confirms that the
BBFC's current category standards are reflecting the public mood.
The large scale research also found that attitudes towards sexual threat and sexual violence have moved on since 2013/14. Although the BBFC already classifies such
content restrictively, people told us that certain depictions of rape in particular should receive a higher rating. The BBFC has therefore adjusted its Classification Guidelines in these areas.
People also told us that they expect
the strongest sex references, in particular those that use the language of pornography, to be classified at 18. The new guidelines reflect this demand.
David Austin added:
We're here to listen
to what people want, which is why they trust our age ratings. So it's encouraging to know that we've been classifying content in line with what people want and expect when it comes to difficult themes around credible real life scenarios. We also know
that people are more comfortable with issues such as action violence, if it's in a way that they are expecting -- such as a Bond or Bourne film. We are updating our standards around depictions of sexual violence and very strong sex references to reflect
changes in public attitudes.
The BBFC found film classification checking is most evident among parents of children under the age of 12, finding that 87% check all or most of the time, and a further 9% check
occasionally. Interestingly, there has been a marked increase in the level of claimed classification checking by parents of children aged 12-14 years -- up from 90% ever checking in 2013 to 97% in 2018.
The new guidelines will
come into effect on 28 February 2019.
UK-based porn viewers seem to be filling their boots before the government's age check kicks in as traffic to xHamster rose 6% in 2018
According to xHamster's Alex Hawkins, the trend is typical of countries in which plans to block online pornography
becomes national news. It seems the more you talk about it, the more people feel invested in it as a right, he said.
The government has promised a minimum of three months for industry and the public to prepare for age verification, meaning they
are likely to come into force around Easter. However this is a little unfair to websites as the BBFC has not yet established the process by which age verification services will be kitemarked and approved as promising to keep porn viewers identity and/or
browsing history acceptably safe. For the moment websites do not know which services will be deemed acceptable.
Countries that have restrictions already in place showed, unsurprisingly, a decline in visitors. Traffic from China fell 81% this year,
which xHamster put down to the nation's ban on VPNs and $80,000 cash rewards for people who shopped sites hosting illegal content, like porn.
Elsewhere, the report showed an increase in the number of female visitors to the site -- up 42% in the US
and 12.3% worldwide -- a trend Hawkins predicted would continue into 2019.
The government has published Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations 2019 which defines which websites get caught up in upcoming internet porn censorship requirements and how social media websites are excused from the censorship.
laws will come into force on the day that subsection (1) of section 14 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 comes fully into force. This is the section that introduces porn censorship and age verification requirements. This date has not yet been announced but
the government has promised to give at least 3 months notice.
So now websites which are more than one-third pornographic content or else those that promote themselves as pornographic will be obliged to verify the age of UK visitors under. However
the law does not provide any specific protection for porn viewers' data beyond the GDPR requirements to obtain nominal consent before using the data obtained for any purpose the websites may desire.
The BBFC and ICO will initiate a voluntary
kitemark scheme so that porn websites and age verification providers can be audited as holding porn browsing data and identity details responsibly. This scheme has not yet produced any audited providers so it seems a little unfair to demand that websites
choose age verification technology before service providers are checked out.
It all seems extraordinarily dangerous for porn users to submit their identity to adult websites or age verification providers without any protection under law. The BBFC
has offered worthless calls for these companies to handle data responsibly, but so many of the world's major website companies have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, and hackers, spammers, scammers, blackmailers and identity thieves are hardly
likely to take note of the BBFC's fine words eg suggesting 'best practice' when implementing age verification.
Neil Brown, the MD of law firm decoded.legal told Sky News:
It is not clear how this age
verification will be done, and whether it can be done without also have to prove identity, and there are concerns about the lack of specific privacy and security safeguards.
Even though this legislation has received quite a lot of
attention, I doubt most internet users will be aware of what looks like an imminent requirement to obtain a 'porn licence' before watching pornography online.
The government's own impact assessment recognises that it is not
guaranteed to succeed, and I suspect we will see an increase in advertising from providers in the near future.
It would seem particularly stupid to open one up to the dangers of have browsing and identity tracked, so surely it is time
to get oneself protected with a VPN, which enables one to continue accessing porn without having to hand over identity details.
Kirsty Brimelow QC is the new chairwoman of the independent appeals panel for the age verification regime of the British Board of Film Classification. The panel will oversee attempts to prevent children gaining access to adult content online. The
initial term is for 3 years in the post
The BBFC has just published a very short list of adjudications responding to website blocking complaints to mobile ISPs during the last quarter of 2018.
There are several cases where innocuous websites were erroneously blocked by ISPs for no apparent
reason whatsoever and a quick check by a staff member would have sorted out without the need to waste the BBFC's time. These sites should get compensation from the for grossly negligent and unfair blocking.
The only adjudication of note was that
the general archive website archive.org which of course keeps a snapshot of a wide range of websites including some porn.
The BBFC noted that this was the second time that they have taken a look at the site::
The BBFC provided a further adjudication when we viewed the website on 10 October 2018. As in September 2015, we determined that the site was a digital archive which hosted a range of media including video, books and
articles. We found a range of pornography across the archive which featured explicit images of sexual activity, in both animated and non-animated contexts. The site also contained repeated uses of very strong language. Additionally, out of copyright film
and video material which the BBFC has passed 18 was also present on the site.
As such, we concluded that we would continue to classify the site 18.
It is interesting to note that the BBFC have never been asked
to adjudicate about similarly broad websites where it would be totally untenable to come to the same 18 rated but correct conclusion, eg google.com, youtube.com, twitter.com. They would all have to be 18 rated and it would cause untold trouble for
everybody. I wonder who decides 'best not go there'?