ATVOD Urges Processing Ban for Sites That Don't Verify Age

Jan 28, 2013 8:30 AM PST

LONDON — ATVOD, the U.K.'s communications czar for on-demand entertainment, has formally asked the government to widen its grip on online adult websites with a proposal to ban the processing of charges for sites that fail to check customer ages.

ATVOD, in a plan sent last week to Maria Miller, the secretary of U.K.'s Department of Culture, Media and Sport, urged the government to target banks and payment processors that "facilitate the provision to U.K. consumers" of porn without age verification.

The proposal is far-reaching because it even aims at overseas online adult companies, which would be penalized for failing to take adequate measures to ensure their U.K. customers are adults.

Under the proposal, payment processors would receive a blacklist of all companies making pornography available without proper age verification. That verification under U.K. laws requires credit and debit cards or other definitive identifying information.

With the proposal, processors would be responsible for ensuring that no British customer could make a payment to any of those black-listed companies.

Some companies escape penalties over noncompliance over age verification by moving overseas while continuing to make the same extreme content available to anyone in Britain, ATVOD spokesman Peter Johnson told the Daily Mail.

"Banks will deploy lots of arguments as to why they shouldn’t be the gatekeepers for this," Johnson said. "But following the money and making it difficult for these sites to earn it would be a powerful step towards reducing children’s exposure to hardcore pornography."

Johnson noted that those companies that target Britons are still potentially in breach of U.K.'s Obscene Publications Act.

ATVOD in the past year has clamped down on companies that don't put in place filtering for underage surfers.

One tool the agency has employed is Rule 11, which requires that U.K.-based video-on-demand operators ensure that those under 18 cannot access hardcore porn.

ATVOD disclosed in October that 23 U.K. porn sites were investigated over Rule 11 violations in the past year. Thirteen of the 23 sites were found to be in violation of Rule 11 and fined.

That total doesn't include the latest probe over Playboy TV, which was fined this month £100,000 for age-verification breaches on its websites.     

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