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UK adults feel it is 'too easy' for kids to access web porn videos

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Almost four out of five UK adults believe that it is too easy for children to view hardcore porn online and want tougher regulation of the material, according to new research.

An ICM poll commissioned by the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD), the body appointed by Ofcom to regulate video on-demand in the UK, revealed "widespread" public concern over the availability of hardcore adult videos on the web.

General view of a sign on a sex shop in London's Soho

© PA Images / Katie Collins/PA Archive

couple in bedroom

© Rex Features



The research, conducted in September 2012 and involving 2,019 adult respondents, indicated that 77% of people think it is too easy for children to view hardcore porn videos online.

Many pornography websites ask their visitors to state upon entering the site that they are over 18 and are permitted to view the explicit material. But the research revealed that some adults don't think this goes far enough.

The majority (88%) of respondents felt that it was important for UK websites offering 'porn on-demand' to be forced to take steps to restrict access to just credit card holders, or check information on their customers against a "reliable database", such as the electoral roll.

Concern was even more pronounced among women, as 94% of female respondents said that measures to ensure porn on-demand is blocked for under-18s were "very or quite important", with 82% specifically saying they were "very important".

Overall, 69% of British adults felt that effective controls on adult video websites were "very important".

ATVOD has recently gone on the offensive against hardcore porn websites, including 23 investigations finding 13 breaches of the rules, and leading to two services shutting down and eight companies making their sites compliant with ATVOD regulations.

Four services that failed to make the required changes according to ATVOD's timetable have been referred to Ofcom for deeper investigation. The 'backstop' on-demand regulator will now consider whether to impose financial penalties or restrict/suspend services.

> Bootybox.tv video site falls foul of UK regulator
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"Public concern about the ease with which children can access hardcore pornography online is substantial and there is widespread support for ATVOD's policy of ensuring UK websites providing such content do so only with safeguards that keep it out of reach of children," ATVOD chief executive Pete Johnson said.

"We have made good progress in ensuring that UK websites comply with rules designed to protect children from such harmful content, and our recent enforcement activity has sent a clear message that UK providers of hardcore pornography on-demand must take effective steps to ensure that such material is not accessible to under-18s.

"Asking visitors to a website to click an 'I am 18' button or enter a date of birth or use a debit card is not sufficient - if they are going to offer explicit sex material they must know that their customers are 18, just as they would in the 'offline' world. But we cannot be complacent, and the views of the public can't be ignored."

ATVOD
ATVOD has also warned that there are still many non-UK operators offering unrestricted porn on-demand in Britain, but these are "beyond" the scope of ATVOD regulation. It therefore suggests legislation could be used to tackle these services.

ATVOD wants to see if a consensus could be agreed across all EU member states for measures to prevent children from accessing online porn.

But the watchdog also hopes to explore whether the Obscene Publications Act could be used against UK entities involved in the provision of porn services from outside the EU, such as credit card and payment-processing firms.

"We believe policy makers should consider whether more should be done to protect UK children from porn websites operating from other countries," ATVOD chair Ruth Evans said.

"Given the importance the public clearly attaches to protecting children from exposure to hardcore porn material, it is surely time to consider more imaginative ways to ensure that the standards ATVOD requires UK services to meet are replicated for hardcore porn websites operating from outside the UK and which are currently unregulated."

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