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MPs Call For An "Extreme Porn" Ban To Be Added To The Online Safety Bill


Noa Hoffman / KJM Today Opinion

February 9, 2022


The chair of the Joint Select Committee on the Online Safety Bill has called for “extreme pornography” to be banned from the internet in the UK. Damian Collins, who leads a group of MPs scrutinising the landmark bill said he hopes government will accept his committee’s recommendation that violent pornography should not be accessible to individuals of any age online.


Reporting for PoliticsHome, Noa Hoffman writes that Collins’ statement comes as the government has confirmed that under the new legislation, commercial pornography websites will be required to implement age verification checks to ensure all its users are aged 18 an over. Consumers of adult content will need to provide verification data such as passport details or a credit card to prove their age. Under the current scope of the bill, adults would not be blocked from accessing “extreme pornography” once their age has been verified.


MPs across the Commons have called for a ban on all violent pornography which has been met with some pushback in the adult film industry.


“Extreme pornography should be included in the bill,” Collins told PoliticsHome. “Content that promotes violence against women and girls should be in the bill. These are already offences, we signed international agreements in the United Nations to combat this sort of stuff.


“The act of creating [adult content] to promote violence against women and girls through showing extreme porn videos is something I think many people regard as already being in breach of the law.”


This week government added three new offences to the online safety bill, which is due to be put before parliament in the next few months. Tech giants will now be responsible for proactively cracking down on instances of revenge porn, serious and harmful misinformation, fraud and the sale of illicit drugs from social media platforms, or risk being fined 10% of their global turnover. Alongside tech companies, social media users will be at risk of prosecution if they join abusive pile-ons targetting other users, or send seriously threatening messages. Collins told PoliticsHome that government could yet accept further recommendations laid out in his committee’s report but are unlikely to agree to all of them.


“Government has clearly signalled their intention to change the bill,” the MP for Folkestone said. “When we debated the joint committee's report the government [said] the bill was going to change and change essentially, so that's really important.”


MPs across the Commons have expressed an interest in tackling easily accessible violent pornography online. In November last year the All Party Parliamentary Group on Commercial Sexual Exploitation (APPGCSE) launched an inquiry into commercial pornography in the UK.

The ongoing six-month investigation aims to “assess the scale and nature of the contemporary pornography industry” and establish potential legal frameworks for addressing “harms associated with production and consumption” of commercial adult content.


Dame Diana Johnson, who chairs the APPGCSE, has expressed particular concern about the way extreme sexual acts have become mainstream in contemporary pornography videos, particularly among young men.


“There’s a lot of evidence mounting about how pornography is affecting our views about relationships and sex, and what [young people] believe sex is about,” Johnson told PoliticsHome. “What is mainstream now seems to be much more violent than perhaps it was before."


Though a ban on extreme porn has support across the Commons, actors and activsts in the adult entertainment industry have expressed concern about MPs making decisions "behind closed doors about the industry without involving the industry".


"Whenever it comes to political organisations making decisions about what is extreme porn and what isn’t extreme porn, there seems to be quite a grey area between what is good and safe for performers and what is good and safe for audiences," Jason Domino, the sexual health and well-being lead at the Support Network for Adult Professionals, told PoliticsHome.


"I, as a performer, often do quite graphic scenes, however I am performing those acts... that’s a very different conversation from what people are watching, what they’re thinking about, the wider influences and conversations about how much sex and relationships education is happening in the wider community to contextualise what they’re looking at as a form of art.


"In the same way people watch many different films, they’re able to understand it’s a piece of art. It doesn’t necessarily mean that that is how people act with each other in real life, but it’s something that people are interested in watching at different times."


© Noa Hoffman / PoliticsHome

Image via PoliticsHome





Whilst there are aspects to the new bill that are to be welcomed, there are still areas that give cause for concern.


One of them is the legal requirement for users to provide verification of their age. Thus far the same examples have been used, those of a passport or credit card. What if one does not have either? That of course means tough luck on a potential pornography viewer and it is a little difficult to have much sympathy. But why should somebody be excluded from something merely because they do not have these means of ID? In a wider context however, the concept of exclusion because one doesn't have certain things - regardless of the internet content they may want to look at - is surely not right. One cannot discriminate, which is what the ID clause can and probably will do.


Secondly, and more of a worry, is the inevitable 'mission creep'. It will take little for governments to look at the 'success' of ID for porn and extend the requirement to something else. And then another; and another. Until we will have arrived at the ultimate; whenever you want to log on to the internet, or for that matter do anything else, you will have to provide your full ID details; name, address, bank details, and so on.


Whoever you are, the state and its agents will know everything there is to know about you.


Coming from a government, made up of MPs that have already shown themselves to be ignorant of the erosion of freedom (regardless of party), anything that places restrictions on use of anything needs to be resisted. And although we may not like it very much, that includes the freedom to watch online pornography.




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