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Resist Porn Censorship in the UK with Pandora Blake

Photo credit: Germana Costanza Lavagna

If you’re in the UK you may have heard about the age verification laws the government have pledged to enforce on porn websites to verify that their visitors are 18 or over. The plans were first announced in the summer of 2017 and since then the government has delayed them to work out exactly how they will work.

Now I know that on the surface protecting children from seeing porn too young might seem like a good thing, but all is not as it seems.

There’s honestly so much wrong with the age verification plans that it’s hard to know where to start… and hard to keep it concise, but I will do my best! 😖

For a start, this is not your usual age verification where you input your date of birth and continue merrily along. You have to formally identify yourself with data from your passport, credit card or drivers license. For those of you who don’t want to hand over personal details to a porn site you can visit your local supermarket to do face-to-face verification and buy a “porn pass”.

Making users provide such personal details will result in a HUGE risk of privacy loss for anyone using the service (said to be up to 25 million people in the UK!). This means that there will be masses of information on viewer’s porn browsing history – what you’re clicking on, when you’re looking at it, what you’re paying for… that could lead to a huge database of people’s private sexual preferences very susceptible to a leak or a hack. And for those people using the supermarket porn passes, your information isn’t safe either – once you log onto a site with one of these passes they will use a cookie to identify you. This could then lead to leaks that contain information linked back to devices, homes, or workplaces.

And of course… this is the part where MindGeek (owner of PornHub and just a modest 90% of the free porn tube sites for those of you who don’t know) come in. They have created their own age verification software which they’re offering to smaller sites for competitively low prices so that they have no other option but to use their software. Now, I wonder why they’re so keen to get other sites using their verification… could it be so that they have access to their competitor’s viewing statistics?!

The laws are also going to give MindGeek even more dominance in the adult industry because sites are not enforced to offer more than one age verification product. So, all of MindGeek’s sites (again, 90% of the mainstream porn sites) will only offer their own product; Age ID. Users also don’t have to verify their age on each visit if access is restricted by a password. So users visiting a MindGeek site will only have to verify their age once and then will be able to log in to any site using their verification service without having to verify again. Therefore, viewers will be less likely to visit competitor sites not using the AgeID technology, and simultaneously competitor sites will feel pressured to use AgeID to protect themselves from losing viewers.

WAIT it gets better. Of course, MindGeek don’t want to really lose any of their own under 18 year old viewers. So, they’ve made their own VPN which will let underage users bypass their age verification controls by appearing that they’re browsing from outside of the UK.

They never cease to amaze me.

But I want to tell you today about a very hopeful light at the end of the tunnel.

This week, the wonderful queer adult filmmaker, performer, activist and public speaker Pandora Blake, launched the ResistAV campaign to challenge age verification laws.

Together with porn performer Misha Mayfair and lawyer Myles Jackman, Pandora is raising funds to pay for legal fees to challenge the new rules. Check out their campaign site here. For a start they need to raise £10,000 to cover the cost of legal advice in this complicated area and send a message to UK government that your personal privacy is important.

Here’s how you can get involved:

Donate money to support their work and raise a legal challenge in order to force legislators to take privacy seriously.

UK parliament will be voting soon on how age verification will be enforced. Write or tweet your MP to make sure they are aware of the issues ahead of the vote

Share, share, share! Either privately or publicly on social media (use the hashtag #ResistAV). The more people talking about this, the more attention it will get. 

So, please help us spread the word about age verification and Pandora’s campaign. And as I’m sure you will all know by now I believe in education, not censorship! This type of censorship is a poor answer to the sexual dysfunction of our society. In this internet age it’s inevitable that children will see things they probably shouldn’t, but we shouldn’t try to fix a social problem with technology.

I have repeatedly stressed that we need to change pornography to portray more realistic sex which clearly shows consent and respect to all parties involved. And we need government funded compulsory sex education in schools, given by independent experts rather than untrained teachers. We must give young people space to ask questions and explore their sexuality without shame.

Help us spread the message about censorship in porn!

xoxo

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