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Internet Porn Censorship


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Ofcom Slaps Down ATVOD's Grasping Hands...

Ofcom overrules ATVOD and confirms that the VOD censor has successfully driven Playboy TV's website offshore to Canada

Link Here29th September 2013
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.

ATVOD whined:

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.



Update: Censorship, Content and Consumers...

DCMS outlines its plans for the suffocation of the British internet industry

Link Here1st August 2013
Full story: David Cameron's Internet Porn Ban...Attempting to ban everything on the internet

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.

Website Blocking

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.



Celebrity Sex Sells...

US reality show star attracts plenty of visitors for her sex video

Link Here9th May 2013

Farrah Abraham is apparently setting records with Farrah Superstar: Backdoor Teen Mom . The former reality star's sex tape was released on Vivid's website smashing records set by Kim Kardashian and Ray J's sex tape.

TMZ is reporting that there was so much interest in the tape it crashed Vivid's site for nine minutes. The video reportedly attracted more than 2 million visitors in the first 12 hours of its release.



Suffocating the British Adult Industry...

ATVOD rules that online adult services must block access to children and adults without a credit card

Link Here16th April 2013

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.



Ed's Programme Guide...

The Government looks set to extend broadcast levels of TV censorship to all internet TV channels that present themselves in a TV's EPG

Link Here14th February 2013

On 12th February 2013, the government minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey, appeared before the House of Lords Communications Select Committee to give his opinions about media convergence.

One interesting point was that the government intends to extend internet censorship in the upcoming Communications white paper.

The government looks set to extend the onerous TV censorship regime administered by Ofcom to all channels appearing on a TV's Electronic Programme Guide. At the moment, internet TV channels are not subject to Ofcom's suffocating TV censorship. Vaizey feels that 'viewers expect' anything that looks like a TV channel which presents itself for channel hopping in the EPG to be subject to the same strict censorship as broadcast TV.

However channels presenting themselves via an app interface, seem likely to be let off the hook and censored according to the less strict censorship of the Video on Demand censor, ATVOD.

So anything featuring biased news such as Fox News, or else hardcore porn will have to stay off the EPG, and stick with being available only as an app. Vaizey's thinking is that viewers will not expect the same strict censorship for a channel that is more obviously internet based.



But then all the world's nutters will then want the banks to enforce their pet prohibitions...

Self important ATVOD think that banks should enforce an UK ban on payments to international porn websites

Link Here28th January 2013

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 requirements.

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.



Suffocating UK Business...

Ofcom fine Playboy TV 100K for not implementing impossibly restrictive child protection rules on its website

Link Here17th January 2013

Ofcom has fined Playboy 100,000 for failing to protect children from supposedly seriously harmful pornographic material.

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 demand.

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.

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