Protecting Children against Online Porn in the UK

ATVOD´s war against children accessing online porn continues.

Strictly Broadband, the UK adult service that was forced to close down due to ´unmanageable´ trading conditions, has been fined today (6 December 2012) by Ofcom for not putting in place effective access controls to prevent children accessing porn. The fine, of 60,000 GBP, is due even though the service closed down in September 2012, after seven years of trading.

ATVOD, the Authority for Television On Demand,  which is responsible for regulating the editorial content of certain on-demand programmes services like Strictly Broadband, as co-regulator alongside Ofcom – originally found the website in breach of its Rule 11 in July 2012. This rule states that if an on-demand programme service ¨contains material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen, the material must be made available in a manner which secures that such persons will not normally see or hear it.”

This was not the case with the Strictly Broadband service, which was made available online, along with its sister site www.anywhere.xxx. ATVOD’s Guidance to Rule 11 explains the type of restrictions that a provider should put in place around R18 content to ensure that minors cannot usually access it. As “Strictly Broadband” was not in compliance with Rule 11 during the period in question, ATVOD referred “Strictly Broadband” to Ofcom for consideration of a sanction on 13 August 2012.

In other news ATVOD has published new research (3 December 2012) that demonstrates that four out of five adults think that it is too easy for children to view hardcore porn online. The research was conducted by ICM Research on 26-27 September 2012. The responses from a demographic sample of 2019 adults in Great Britain showed that:

  • 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 continues its intensive enforcement activity. It  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 18s.

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 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.

ATVOD has also announced today the appointment of a new independent Board Member and Director, replacing the outgoing member, Sara Nathan. Paul Whiteing is the CEO of PhonepayPlus where he is responsible for regulating the fast changing premium rate industry during a period of rapid technological convergence of internet and telephony. Paul has extensive experience of regulation and consumer protection of all forms based on twenty years experience in a variety of regulated sectors. He will take up his post in January.

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