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The Association for Television on Demand
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20121203 Porn and Hatred Online

News Article: 3 December 2012

FOUR OUT OF FIVE ADULTS THINK IT IS EASY FOR CHILDREN TO SEE HARDCORE PORN ONLINE

New ICM research shows strength of public concern at under-18s’ ready access to hardcore pornography in video-on-demand services

Overwhelming support has been revealed for regulators’ enforcement of strict rules to curb on-line providers making hardcore pornography available to children and young people.

Media regulator The Authority for Television On Demand (“ATVOD”) – co-regulator of editorial content in UK video on demand services – has today published research showing that British adults welcome its rules requiring UK porn-on-demand websites to keep hardcore porn behind effective access controls which ensure that under 18s cannot normally see it.

The new online study, conducted by ICM Research on 26-27 September 2012, and involving responses from a demographically based sample of 2019 adults in Great Britain, reveals:

  • 77%  of British adults think hardcore porn videos are easy for children to see online
  • 88% of British adults think  it is important that UK websites offering porn-on-demand are required to take the steps set out in the ATVOD Rules and Guidance – such as restricting access, to credit card holders or by checking information against a reliable database, e.g. the electoral roll - to ensure that under 18s do not normally see hardcore porn material
  • Women are particularly concerned, with 94% saying the measures required by ATVOD are very or quite important (with 82% specifically saying they are very important)
  • Overall, 69% of British adults say the measures required by ATVOD  are ‘very important’
  • Views are broadly the same for adults with or without children

The VOD regulator has mounted intensive and effective enforcement activity during 2012. ATVOD has recently investigated 23 notified ‘adult’ services, finding 13 to be in breach of the statutory rules because they featured hardcore porn material which could be accessed by under 18’s.

Two of those found to be in breach have now closed and eight have made themselves compliant by placing all hardcore material behind an effective access control mechanism. Four services[1] which failed to make changes according to the timetable set by ATVOD have been referred to Ofcom. The back-stop regulator is now considering whether to impose financial penalties or restrict or suspend services.

Despite its success in making UK based services act more responsibly, and the public support for such action, ATVOD counsels against complacency as most porn on demand services available to UK internet users are operated from outside the UK, putting them beyond UK regulation. The VOD regulator has therefore called for more to be done to protect UK children from hardcore porn on non-UK services, and encourages policy makers to consider:

  • How to improve the take up and effectiveness of parental control software;
  • Whether more effective use could be made of the Obscene Publications Act, given Crown Prosecution Service advice[2] that offering unrestricted access to hardcore porn is prosecutable under that legislation ;
  • Whether a consensus might be built among EU Member States for measures to keep hardcore porn out of reach of children; and
  • Whether action can and should be taken against UK entities involved in the provision of services from outside the EU, but targeted at the UK, which appear to operating in breach of the Obscene Publications Act – for instance, payment processors.

ATVOD Chief Executive Pete Johnson said:

“Public concern about the ease with which children can access hardcore pornography online is substantial and there is widespread support for ATVOD’s policy of ensuring UK websites providing such content do so only with safeguards that keep it out of reach of children.

“We have made good progress in ensuring that UK websites comply with rules designed to protect children from such harmful content, and our recent enforcement activity has sent a clear message that UK providers of hardcore pornography on demand must take effective steps to ensure that such material is not accessible to under-18s. Asking visitors to a website to click an ‘I am 18’ button or enter a date of birth or use a debit card is not sufficient – if they are going to offer explicit sex material they must know that their customers are 18, just as they would in the ‘offline’ world.

“But we cannot be complacent, and the views of the public can’t be ignored.”

ATVOD Chair, Ruth Evans said:

“We believe policy makers should consider whether more should be done to protect UK children from porn websites operating from other countries. Given the importance the public clearly attaches to protecting children from exposure to hardcore porn material, it is surely time to consider more imaginative ways to ensure that the standards ATVOD requires UK services to meet are replicated for hardcore porn websites operating from outside the UK and which  are currently unregulated.”

[1] One of the services referred to Ofcom subsequently made the required changes.

[2] CPS legal guidance on charging practice:  http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/l_to_o/obscene_publications/#a07