AITA update on censorship-related activities

Posted: June 15, 2012

AITA chair Jerry Barnett has updated the trade body’s members on the censorship-related activities the association has been involved with recently. These have been focused in three areas: ATVOD, Internet filtering and the BBFC and CPS guidelines with regard to obscenity.

The communication, which was posted on the AITA website reads:

“In recent months I’ve been involved in a lot of activity related to censorship and how it may affect the adult industry. Here is a summary of the three main areas of activity:

ATVOD
Over recent years I have attempted to track regulations that may affect the UK adult industry. ATVOD’s Rule 11, which specifies that web sites are responsible for age-verifying users before any hardcore still or moving images can be displayed, is a source of major concern.

I have made representations to ATVOD that this regulation is punitive to UK businesses as it is not possible for a web site to implement such a mechanism without losing the bulk of its customers. Furthermore, since this only applies to businesses based in the UK, it has no effect on availability of adult content anyway – this regulation seems to be designed solely to drive UK adult businesses either offshore, or out of business.

ATVOD’s response to this has not been sympathetic – they repeat the mantra that they are “protecting children” while ignoring the simple fact that these rules do nothing to reduce the availability of easily accessible adult content. My position is that the right approach to this is for the industry to use proper labelling technologies and ensure that parents are empowered and educated in how to block adult content if they so wish. Driving the UK adult industry out of existence would simply destroy the chance of any self-regulation.

I am currently taking legal advice on whether these regulations can be challenged and feel there are several grounds on which to challenge them.

Internet filtering
Claire Perry MP (backed by the Daily Mail) is pushing for the ISPs to filter out adult content at the connection level. I’m strongly opposed to this approach for several reasons – as are a number of free speech organisations, not to mention Google. I have met with some anti-censorship organisations that are opposing the filter and will continue to meet with more. It appears an alliance against the plans is building.

There are several problems with network-level filtering: Do we trust the government to decide what is “adult”? The experience in other online censorship exercise shows that the list of blocked sites will grow over time. The filter in Australia was extended to cover all sorts of material that the religious right objected to; We know that many people who legally enjoy adult content would not switch off the filter (for a variety of reasons – confidentiality, embarrassment, etc.); The filter would be easy to get around. It’s likely that teenagers would find out how to avoid it while their parents are left with a false sense of security; It takes control out of the hands of parents and puts it into the hands of a nanny state that makes moral decisions about what adults and teenagers should choose to look at.

Obscenity
The Michael Peacock obscenity trial, in which he was found not guilty, seems to have undermined the case for obscenity prosecutions and for certain censorship decisions taken by the BBFC. However, the CPS and BBFC have stated that despite losing the prosecution the guidelines remain the same. There is an opportunity to challenge the BBFC and CPS guidelines and it is likely that lawyers will take up this opportunity later this year. I believe this will be beneficial both for the industry and for free speech, and will be supporting this action.”

For more information visit www.aita.co.uk

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