Ofcom’s Internet Power Grab is Finally Underway

Yesterday, the UK government released the result of its consultation into (yet again) protecting children from online pornography. Predictably, the finding was that children DO need even more protection, and so Ofcom must be granted additional powers to censor online content.

This process has been so long and treacle-slow that it’s been clear for many years where it is leading. Stripping away the various convoluted steps that brought us here, one simple fact has always been obvious: Ofcom and the government were always going to act against a free Internet which undermined their powerful censorship controls over the mass media, and especially over sexual content.

So what will the new law – the Digital Economy Bill – say? It cements and the significantly extends the existing AVMS regulations which have been in place since 2010. So, as before, adult video-on-demand sites based in the UK are required to verify the ages of their visitors before revealing adult content to them. Failure to do so can (as before) result in a fine of up to £250,000. This regulation is the reason the UK adult industry has been decimated in the past few years.

Here’s the new stuff:

  1. The law no longer applies to “TV-like” video-on-demand services, but to all content, including still photography. This will close the loophole which a handful of websites have used to evade the regulations.
  2. Apps are to be included as well as websites.
  3. Ofcom will put pressure on payment companies as well as “advertising companies, web hosting services and others” to ensure that “the business models and profits of companies that do not comply with the new regulations can be undermined”. This enables Ofcom to target overseas content that breaches UK regulations.

Note the vagueness in this last point: this could easily include, in future, requiring ISPs to block services. So here is the law that I’ve warned of for some years: one that will allow Ofcom to manage – and close – our digital borders. The great firewall of Britain is coming.

Unless I’ve missed it, I can’t find any definition of “porn” in the report. The consultation hinted that soft content – non-explicit nudity and erotica – may be included, at Ofcom’s discretion.

It’s Not About Porn

Here’s a point I’ve made repeatedly. In my book Porn Panic!, I argue that the war on porn has been merely a symptom of a deeper intolerance to free speech that has long been rising in British society. Ofcom will not, of course, stop at targeting commercial porn sites, or even all sexual content. The British state considers myriad forms of content to be unsuitable for under-18s, and will now grant itself the powers to deal with it.


And finally, a note on Brexit. It is likely that “undermining” (i.e. blocking or forcing to close) a legal, EU-based adult service would breach EU trade regulations. Sadly, should we leave the EU (as looks likely), we lose any legal recourse against this rising state censorship. Here, as in so many other ways, the EU has protected the British people against the excesses of our own government. Just as we will lose the free movement of people across borders, so we are beginning to lose the free transmission of information across borders.


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4 thoughts on “Ofcom’s Internet Power Grab is Finally Underway

  1. in the end we will never are the free transmission of information across border no matter how much they try to do that
    and its very likely we wont leave the EU anytime soon or at all because the referendum was advisory and many MPs dont want to the UK to leave so we wont lose any legal recourse against this rising state censorship anytime soon and even if we do its very likely we will still be under the laws in some other form,
    Ofcom will never manage or close our digital borders because the internet will always find a way around it and people will use VPNs and Proxys and Tor and banning then would not work.

    it the end they will never be able to control the free Internet but we must still fight this bill to the end by stopping it or changing it.

    but we should not give up! and we should fight to stay in the EU! many want to stay and many dont want this law!

    also they said we are not going to lose the free movement of people across borders? that was a lie by leave.

    so yeah censorship will always fail and we are not leaving the EU so we can still use EU trade regulations to stop this law and take it to court

  2. Immediately after reading this, I picked up on an article on WebProNews about “addressable advertising” on mainstream TV through the power of advancing smart technology and felt instantly that that technology was more than likely to be used as one method that the non-UK providers might turn to. Indeed smart UK providers could use it too.

    At the present time I’m re-writing my artistic-erotic website and I’m launching the new version in a few weeks time. But the whole thing has had to be centred on complying with what I was expecting to arrive and these OFCOM powers have pretty well sealed the approach I am compelled to take, even thought the home page and free areas will be no more explicit than Page 3 of the Daily Star.

    Beauty (and porn) as they say is in the eye of the beholder, and, no doubt, there will be legal challenges, much the same as there was to the book Lady Chatterly’s Lover in 1960, (yes it was that recent), but these powers are, to say the least, draconian.

    Jerry and I may disagree on some things, but here Jerry has hit the nail right on the head. Maybe I do need to check if I have Irish or French ancestry after all.

  3. Driving the thing underground sends out the right political message. Hardcore porn’s current accessibility HARMS KIDS by distorting boundaries. Those who’ve undergone a catharsis, who’ve worked in the industry, can tell u the truth about sexual violations veiled as freedom of expression and just a good earner. This dissemination augmented as sex harm youngsters, make no mistake.

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