UK VOD sites probed on Rule 11

Posted: October 18, 2012

23 U.K.-based video-on-demand porn operators have been investigated for enforcement of Rule 11, which requires that they ensure that internet users under 18 cannot access hardcore porn. ATVOD disclosed information today about the probes in a report to the U.K. Council for Child Internet Safety, as well as to the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications.

Of the porn sites that have been investigated, 13 were found to be in breach by UK video-on-demand regulator, ATVOD.

The investigations followed the closure of Bootybox.tv in January, after site operators found that they could not comply with the new regulations. Sites probed since then have included Anywhere.xxx and StrictlyBroadband.com, for which owner, Jerry Barnett, was served papers that gave him a schedule of compliance. Barnett gave up the sites, stating that the new rules “make it effectively impossible to run a video-on-demand site in the U.K.” The report did not disclose the names or operators of websites currently under investigation.

“Two of those found to be in breach have now closed and eight have become compliant by placing all hardcore material behind an effective access control mechanism,” ATVOD said. “Four services which had failed to make changes within a specified time to ensure that under-18s cannot normally see hardcore material have been referred to OFCOM so the back-stop regulator can consider whether to impose a financial penalty or restrict or suspend the service.”

Under Rule 11, porn sites should have an effective Content Access Control System, or CAC System, in place to verify age at the point of access. These systems may use confirmation of credit card ownership; personal digital identity management services (PIN), other comparable proof of account ownership that verifies age.

But ATVOD point out in the report that enforcement of non-U.K. porn sites isn’t feasible. “ATVOD has no power to impose similar restrictions on hardcore porn websites operating from outside the U.K. but accessible from within the U.K., including by U.K. children,” ATVOD said. “Such tube sites depend on maximizing the number of visitors and therefore provide no barriers to viewing the free hardcore porn content they offer, often eschewing even a token warning landing page.”

The report recommends that further consideration should be given to the enforcement of existing legislation, including the U.K.’s Obscene Publications Act.

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