Niche pornographers feel unduly targeted by censors


UC-SC Femdom

Are purveyors of niche pornography, outside of the
mainstream, being unduly targeted by UK TV on-demand regulator
Atvod? One femdom site owner believes the answer is a resounding
yes

“I believe that there is some kind of hunt going on at the
moment,” Itziar Urrutia tells Wired.co.uk.

Urrutia operates an adult
fetish site
that is less blondes in schoolgirl skirts, and more
whips, chains and latex. She is a visual performance artist, and
her persona du jour is that of the jail keeper at the Urban Chick
Supremacy Cell, “a fictional femdom (female dominance) terror cell
that seeks to chase smug city boys and other male vermin and
destroy patriarchy”. Since June 2013, however, the tables have
somewhat turned and Urrutia has found herself the hunted party.

It was then she received a letter telling her she had breached
rules 1, 4 and 11 of TV on-demand regulator Atvod’s very minimalistic list of rules (there are 13, and 9 are
administrative). One and four relate to Atvod’s categorisation of
her ten hours of video, published behind a membership paywall, as a
TV-like service akin to 4OD — which means Atvod gets to charge a
regulatory fee. Rule 11, accuses Urrutia of hosting “material which
might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of
persons under the age of eighteen”, something that is outlawed
unless under age verification controls, according to the EU’s
Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which only the UK seems to
have concluded relates to all material of an R18 nature.

“There isn’t tolerance for porn in this country,” Jerry Barnett,
founder of Sex Censorship, tells Wired.co.uk. This is where
we come to the chase.

“Independent producers are being hunted down, while the
corporate, mainstream pornography studios — owned by the same
media that sells papers by pandering to the current ‘think of the
children’ moral panic — continue,” says Urrutia.

The statement might sound alarmist in itself. But not so much
when you look to one of the adult content producers working in
synchronisation with Atvod. Portland TV, whose managing director —
a former Atvod board member — has spoken of the benefits of
regulation to the industry, is owned by Northern Shell.
Northern Shell owns public Channel 5. It also owns the Daily
Express
, Sunday
Express
, Daily
Star
and Daily
Star Sunday
, papers that routinely like to use the words
“seedy” and “shame” in the same sentence as anything to do with
pornography. Paradoxically, they also write a lot about porn.

For his part, however, Atvod CEO Peter Johnson disagrees With
Urrutia’s suggestion that small operators providing a view outside
of the mainstream are being disproportionately targeted while large
corporations are given the leniency needed to survive.

“This is completely untrue and unfounded,” Atvod’s CEO tells
Wired.co.uk. “We apply the rules equally to those we regulate,
regardless of their size.”

If there really is an anti-porn agenda in this country, it’s
hard to see where it’s coming from. Between the historical western
adoption of the view that sexuality is sinister, regulators telling
us pornography is harmful to children and governments reiterating
that fact with nonspecific laws, it’s hard to see where the root
lies.

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Why we're afraid of internet porn

What has been clear the last few weeks, is that Atvod feels bold
enough in its position to demand the UK change the law to enable it
to regualte the entire globe’s pornography output — if it’s
available to view online in the UK. And what’s also starkly clear,
is that the government is regurgitating Atvod’s mantra. On 19
March, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee released its online safety report, which dealt solely with children and spoke of the harm viewing pornography
online can do
(read “Why
we’re afraid of internet porn
” for an alternate academic view
that stipulates the exact opposite). It called for gambling
site-style age verification measures and blocks on sites that fail
to comply. Less than ten days later, Atvod released a report
claiming 44,000 primary school children had seen “adult content” in
December 2013, and called for the exact same measures.

“It’s just laziness,” says Ian Walden, a professor of
Information and Communications Law. The government did not want to
deal with regulation when the EU Directive was brought in, and
outsourced the job to Atvod under an industry self-regulation
structure. To stray from the norm, away from what the
government-designated regulator rules (and recommends to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee), could be
politically risky.


UC-SC Femdom

“The other classic example is of course the evidence suggesting
rendering drugs illegal doesn’t actually stop the sale of drugs, it
just creates a criminal market for them,” says Walden. “The police
has regularly come out and said we overcriminalise drug taking, but
no politician has come out — well only very braves ones — to say
yes let’s liberalise drugs. That ‘precautionary principle’ is
actually about politicians taking precaution for their future
elections.”