Could UK Conservatives’ Policy End Free Porn?

18not18_650LONDON – Should it regain control of Parliament after the general election on 7 May, the UK’s Conservative Party has said one of the things at the top of its agenda will be forcing all domestic and foreign adult websites to install age-verification processes. Failure to comply could mean significant fines or blocking the websites at the ISP level.

Why is this even an issue? Wasn’t Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s mandatory filtering program supposed to prevent under 18s from accessing adult websites?

Evidently the filtering mandate has not been as successful as UK Members of Parliament hoped, since 96 percent of all broadband users opted out of the employing the filters.

If at first you don’t succeed in yanking the populace’s collective mind out of the gutter, try, try again.

Under the Conservatives’ proposed porn program, all websites containing adult content would be required to erect barriers no surfer could pass without “effective age verification controls.” No specific model has been floated, but Gilad Rosner, a member of the cabinet office privacy and consumer advocacy group, said the most likely plan would require adult website to sign up for a service that verifies a potential viewer’s age before granting him or her access to so much as a tour.

Rosner also suggested costs incurred by the websites would be passed along to consumers, possibly in the form of a “validation fee.” That’s all very tidy, and consumers who join sites after viewing the tour likely would receive some form of rebate to cover the expense.

But what about consumers who are unsure whether the website will be to their liking? Will they fork over a non-refundable validation fee just to look around and evaluate? Probably not.

Under an affiliate-marketing model, the situation becomes even less attractive because consumers would need to verify not only at the affiliate’s gateway, but also at the site to which the gateway led them.

The least attractive situation of all would face tube sites and other free porn outlets, including blogs. When one must pay a validation fee before being granted access to free porn, the porn isn’t really free, is it?

The Conservatives’ plan, though potentially deleterious to membership, video-on-demand and dating sites, might also have a silver lining, of sorts: If sites must verify UK surfers’ ages before granting access and no surfer in his right mind will agree to pay for “free” porn, tubes either will have to change their business model or give up traffic from the UK.

The scenario is a classic Catch-22 situation: It won’t quite bring about the death of free porn, but it surely would put a dent in it availability.

 

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Sue Denim

Sue Denim

editor in chief, YNOT Group LLC

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