Most porn-on-demand services are beyond UK regulation, warns watchdog

 

Most porn on demand services available to British internet users are operated from outside the UK putting them beyond UK regulation, a regulator has warned.

There should be consideration of stopping payments from UK bank accounts to businesses which are likely to be operating unlawfully, to protect children from seeing the material, said the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD), co-regulator of editorial content in UK video on demand services.

ATVOD in its annual report detailed steps it has been taking to protect children from hardcore porn on regulated video on demand (VOD) services.

Sixteen services, operating across 26 websites, were found to be in breach of the statutory rules in 2012-13 because they featured hardcore porn material which could be accessed by under-18s, ATVOD said.

Of the 16, 10 acted to make changes to bring the service into compliance and three promptly closed. The remaining three were referred to back-stop regulator Ofcom which imposed financial penalties.

The report points out that Crown Prosecution Service guidance on the Obscene Publications Act makes clear that non-UK websites offering unrestricted access to hardcore pornography and which can be accessed from the UK are likely to be considered to be operating in breach of UK law.

Chairwoman Ruth Evans said: "We believe Government should consider whether more should be done to protect UK children from porn websites operating from other countries, which may be unregulated.

"Given the importance the public clearly attaches to protecting children from exposure to hard-core porn material, it is surely time to think about more imaginative ways of ensuring that the safeguards ATVOD institutes around UK services are replicated for hard-core porn websites accessible in the UK, but operated overseas.

"For example, given that many such services appear to be operating in breach of the Obscene Publications Act, can it be right that they are part-financed by payments made from UK bank accounts?"

The report said: "We have raised this issue directly with those involved in facilitating such payments and have received an encouraging initial response. We will continue to discuss the proposal with the UK financial industry and hope to see real progress during the coming year."

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