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Television on demand regulator calls for more porn policing
Friday 28 March 2014 09:56:18 by Andrew Ferguson

The Authority for Television on Demand has an interesting study on the numbers of under 18's accessing adult websites online (i.e. hardcore porn sites). With the current push to get the one third of households with children to switch on parental controls and reduce the ease with which minors can see saucy content the study does provide some useful baseline statistics.

  • Projected figure is that 44,000 primary school children accessed an adult website in a one month period (1 in 35)
  • A higher figure of 200,000 under 16's accessed porn websites i.e. 1 in 16
  • One in five teenage boys accessed an adult website
  • Based on software analysis of web browsing habits on 45,000 UK Internet users
  • Extrapolation suggests that nine million people in the UK accessed adult websites during the study
  • Study acknowledges that tablet/mobile use may increase these figures

Unsurprisingly given that minors generally don't have credit cards, the eight most popular sites were free sites and 15 of the top 16 visited sites were actually outside the UK and not subject to UK law. The body ATVOD that polices this sector in the UK points out that the free sites that have no age verification would not be legal within the UK, hence why they are invariably not hosted in the UK. Amazingly of the 1266 websites visited during the study only one was regulated by ATVOD due its being run from the UK.

"Significant sums are flowing from UK customers to foreign websites which allow children to access hardcore porn. In 2013, The Times estimated the sum could be £180 million a year.

Cutting off that flow of funds to services which allow children to view hardcore porn would provide a powerful incentive for porn websites to put in place effective age verification and access control mechanisms in order to restart the flow of funds from the UK. It would not affect the free services directly – because by definition they do not charge users – but it would undermine the business model on which they depend. Deprived of the money which flows to the underlying pay sites, the tube sites simply could not exist."

ATVOD chief executive Peter Johnson

While the report says that ATVOD is not calling directly for censorship, cutting off the funding mechanisms for perfectly legal services that may be operated in other EU countries may not have the desired effect of reducing the exposure of minors to pornographic material. The current license fee system that ATVOD operates already makes it hard for embryonic sites in the UK to operate and compete in a global digital economy and while and short of actually running a blocking system so that only adult content websites that followed the ATVOD rules there is no way to stop an overseas operator ignoring any UK rules. Cutting off the money stream might even result in alternate currency systems suddenly becoming popular.

The censorship battle in the UK is not going away, but surely the voice of reason is that with the last of the major broadband providers only just having activated optional parental controls, surely we need to wait and see what impact these have before yet more regulation and red tape is deployed.

As a step towards the UK Blue Rinse Internal Firewall the regulation changes suggested by this report look set to accelerate its cause and restore the balance of the carry-on style approach to totally legal adult activities in the UK.

Comments

Posted by shaunhw over 3 years ago
This is regulatory creep and self serving self opinionated do gooders justifying their existence. A unified approach to a global issue should be deployed all across Europe. In many countries, such as Spain, Belgium, Holland, France, Sweden etc. etc. sexually explicit material to R18 standard is broadcast many nights of the week at about 10pm without any proof that children are being harmed. We live in a country of repressive, arrogant control freaks who want to show they know best, and probably do more harm than good.
Posted by shaunhw over 3 years ago
PS: making this kind of stuff hard to get, will only make it more desirable to young people who will then pass it around to show how clever they are in getting it. Forbidden fruit and all!
Posted by adslmax over 3 years ago
What about tv advertsment with too many female are too sexy on tv before 10pm.
Posted by tommy45 over 3 years ago
Camerloon and the other idiots, haven't got a clue, they keep on waisting tax payers money on unworkable draconian ideas that belong back in the victorian times,
Free porn nothing wrong there,And no i don't need or want the nanny state dictating what i should or should not do,
As an adult that's my choice to make, and why should someone ever be required to use their credit card as age verification, if they don't plan on completeing an online buisness transaction ? this is no more than an extra security risk , card fraud is already rife is it not?
Posted by otester over 3 years ago
The government is just using them as an excuse.

Expect an EU Great Firewall eventually.

I wouldn't be suprised if the NSPCC and other related charities have had some stooges put in for this purpose.
Posted by tommy45 over 3 years ago
So are they really that stupid to belive that once the internet becomes some sort of corporate media platform, that we will still want of pay for their version of an internet connection?
Posted by GeeTee over 3 years ago
"Authority for Television on Demand" - who? Where did this bunch of maggots come from? And on whose "authority" do they speak?

"The current license fee system that ATVOD operates...."

Ah, I see - they'd have no self interest in blocking overseas sites at all then. Carry on.
Posted by andygegg over 3 years ago
Governments everywhere have always been scared spitless by the internet and will use tabloid panic to try to destroy it. If it's not terrorists or paedophiles it'll be some other overblown and probably groundless claim. If you tell the great British public something is bad often enough they'll soon believe it - the best slaves are the ones who lock themselves up.
Posted by Daemon66 over 3 years ago
Only 1 in 5 teenage boys accessed adult porn? There must be something seriously wrong with their methodology, that figure should be closer to 9 in 10.
Posted by RichBeardman over 3 years ago
So only eight of the fifteen most popular sites were free? So were their parents paying for them to access the other seven sites or is the report a totally fabricated piece of "research"
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