The US-based child protection organisation, the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) today issued a statement to clarify its position on the UK video-on-demand regulator ATVOD‘s approach to child protection.
ATVOD insists that UK-based porn sites must verify the ages of all visitors before displaying any hardcore imagery (even still images that can be freely found on Google Images or Twitter). In practise, this has made operating a British porn website financially non-viable, and the effect has been to close down – or drive offshore – much of Britain’s online adult industry. The only remaining UK-based adult websites are those run by more traditional TV, DVD and magazine companies, which make the bulk of their revenues offline.
This approach to regulation has puzzled observers, since ATVOD has no remit over any website outside the UK. Furthermore, there are already mature and effective parental control systems available. However, the regulator has been lobbying (using dodgy press releases that claim children are routinely watching porn) for the UK government to introduce legislation that would strengthen its powers. Recently, the government has indicated that such legislation will be introduced. Although the nature of the legislation is unclear, it would undoubtedly involve the official commencement of widespread Internet censorship – to be overseen by ATVOD, naturally.
There had been some earlier confusion over ASACP’s position, which had appeared at times to be supportive of ATVOD. However, in today’s release, the organisation stated it believes that:
…the proposed age verification measures are overbroad, and do not address the most important factor in this equation — the role of the parent.
ASACP also warned that censorship is subject to mission-creep:
Just as the recent UK parental filters turned out to block content ranging from non-erotic nudity to sex education, so this new bill can be expected to be overly broad in its definition of adult entertainment content.
To dispel any misunderstanding over ASACP’s position on ATVOD, the statement concluded:
With this in mind, ASACP cannot support ATVOD’s call for mandatory age verification, but continues to work with all stakeholders to develop a workable solution that protects the needs and interests of children, their parents and guardians as well as adult consumers and publishers of legal erotica, alike.