Sex & Censorship

The Porn Block Failed. Now the Next Ofcom Censorship Bandwagon Begins

OFCOM is to be given new powers to regulate social media and websites in the UK after age verification was scrapped last December. Jerry Barnett explains what this means to those in the adult business

Published Wed 19th Feb 2020
By Jerry Barnett / Sex & Censorship

The Porn Block Failed. Now the Next Ofcom Censorship Bandwagon Begins


 


 This week, we learned that Ofcom is to be given censorship powers over social media and other web sites. This is merely the latest attempt by the regulator/censor to take control of online content.

For some years, this blog has covered attempts by the British state to censor the Internet. The original cover story for implementing this was an age verification system to ‘protect children from porn’. While this sounded reasonable on the surface, this idea required the state to be given the power to block websites that did not comply to the rules. And this required the creation of a state Internet censor with broad powers to block content. After spending more than a decade pursuing this goal, the government pulled the plug on the whole scheme last October; I explained the decision and the background here. In a later twist, the age verification industry announced last month that it is suing the government for cancelling the plans.

Behind the scenes, Ofcom has been lobbying hard. While Ofcom combines many roles and powers over the media and communications, of greatest concern (to me, at least) is its role as television censor. Not only does the regulator enforce tight controls over content broadcast in the UK, but it actually writes its own censorship rules. This effectively gives Ofcom the power to write British law without consulting Parliament, which is an astonishing amount of power for an unelected body to hold. And not only does Ofcom get to decide what is ‘illegal’, but it can issue huge fines to anyone who breaches its ‘laws’. Ofcom is thus judge, jury and executioner.

Broadcasters can be fined hundreds of thousands of pounds for breaching the Ofcom censorship code. Naturally, the end result is that British broadcasters self-censor in order to avoid the risk of being fined. The regime disproportionately affects smaller broadcasters, many of whom could barely afford a fine at this level.

 

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Sex & Censorship / Wed 19th Feb 2020 The Porn Block Failed. Now the Next Ofcom Censorship Bandwagon Begins OFCOM is to be given new powers to regulate social media and websites in the UK after age verification was scrapped last December. Jerry Barnett explains what this means to those in the adult business

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