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Porn Sites Admit Age Verification Would Hurt Profits

Some porn sites have admitted they had considered implementing age verification protocols, but decided not to as it would reduce profits for their business models.

By November 17, 2022No Comments

Disclaimer: Fight the New Drug is a non-religious and non-legislative awareness and education organization. Some of the issues discussed in the following article are legislatively-affiliated. Though our organization is non-legislative, we fully support the regulation of already illegal forms of pornography and sexual exploitation, including the fight against sex trafficking.

Decades of studies from respected institutions have demonstrated significant impacts of porn consumption on individuals, relationships, and society. No Porn November is all about giving visibility to these facts and empowering individuals to choose to be porn-free. Learn more by clicking here.

Adult sites aren’t doing enough to protect children, UK regulator Ofcom warns.

Some sites that host adult content even admitted that they had considered implementing age verification, but decided not to as age verification would reduce profits for their business models.

According to Ofcom, while all such sites have age verification measures in place when users sign up on the platforms, most allow users to access and post adult content just by self-declaring that they are over 18. Many times, all it takes is one click of an “I am 18+” button.

Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, says, “It’s deeply concerning to see yet more examples of platforms putting profits before child safety. We have put UK adult sites on notice to set out what they will do to prevent children accessing them.”

Related: What Does Porn Teach Kids About Sex?

Keep in mind, based on available data, the likely age of a child’s first exposure to porn is around tween years. The majority of kids are exposed to porn by age 13, with some exposed as young as seven, according to a 2020 survey.British Board of Film Classification. (2020). Young people, pornography & age-verification. BBFC. Retrieved from https://www.bbfc.co.uk/about-classification/researchCopy 

But no matter how young, these incidents aren’t isolated cases, and it’s not like early porn exposure only happens to a small slice of people—in fact, in the United States, it happens to almost everybody before they leave their teens. A nationally representative estimate of U.S. youths (ages 14 to 18) exposed to pornography: 84.4% of males and 57% of females.Wright, P. J., Paul, B., & Herbenick, D. (2021). Preliminary insights from a U.S. probability sample on adolescents’ pornography exposure, media psychology, and sexual aggression. J.Health Commun., 26(1), 39-46. doi:10.1080/10810730.2021.1887980Copy 

Ofcom’s role for regulation in the UK

Ofcom is one of the first regulators in Europe to use its powers to gather information from platforms on what they’re doing to protect users from harm online, and to publish it into a public report.

Ofcom’s report is a world first, and shines a bright spotlight on what UK video sites are doing to look after the people who visit and use them.

Related: Does Mainstream Porn Fuel and Normalize Sexual Violence in Teen Relationships?

Ofcom’s role isn’t to address individual videos—given the massive volume of content available online, it would be virtually impossible to prevent every instance of harmful content. Rather, Ofcom’s job is to make sure the platforms are taking effective action to address the issue.

According to Ofcom’s new research, most people (81%) do not mind proving their age online in general, with a majority (78%) expecting to have to do so for certain online activities. A similar proportion (80%) feel internet users should be required to verify their age when accessing pornography online, especially on dedicated adult sites.

Related: What’s the Average Age of a Child’s First Exposure to Porn?

So if the majority of people don’t mind verifying their age online and think age verification should especially be implemented when it comes to accessing porn, why don’t companies who host adult content do so?

The answer is simple: reducing the access minors have to their sites isn’t in their business model. They believe it can hurt profits, which they prioritize as more important than the damage that content can inflict, especially on underage consumers.

Does that sound like an industry that cares about its customer base?

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Amidst progress, some companies admit age verification would hurt profits

So far, nineteen companies have notified Ofcom that they fall within its jurisdiction. Some have taken steps to protect younger internet users, Ofcom says. Here are a few examples:

  • TikTok now categorizes content that may be unsuitable for younger users, to prevent them from viewing it. It has also established an Online Safety Oversight Committee, which provides executive oversight of content and safety compliance specifically within the UK and EU.
  • Snapchat recently launched a parental control feature, Family Center, which allows parents and guardians to view a list of their child’s conversations without seeing the content of the message.
  • Vimeo now allows only material rated “all audiences” to be visible to users without an account. Content rated ‘mature’ or ‘unrated’ is now automatically put behind the login screen.
  • BitChute has updated its terms and conditions and increased the number of people overseeing and—if necessary—removing content.

Related: Parents: What’s Better than Internet Filters? Direct Conversations About Porn

The largest UK-based site with adult content, OnlyFans, has also responded to regulation by introducing new age verification for all new UK subscribers.

Dame Melanie Dawes emphasizes that while regulation can make a difference and some companies have responded by introducing new safety measures, Ofcom’s report has also “exposed the gaps across the industry,” and we now know just how much they need to do.

Related: OnlyFans Reportedly has Lax Moderation and Underage Content, BBC Investigation Finds

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Ofcom also warns that most adult sites based in the UK do not have sufficiently robust measures in place to prevent children accessing pornography. Some also clearly aren’t willing—given that implementing age verification could reduce the profitability of the business.

Companies also aren’t prioritizing risk assessments of their platforms, which Ofcom considers fundamental to proactively identifying and mitigating risk to users.

To put it simply, Ofcom says that some progress is being made to protect users, but more needs to be done.

Related: For Parents & Caregivers: How to Talk to Your Kids About Porn

Is regulation the answer?

Ofcom already has some powers to regulate video-sharing platforms in the UK, which are required by law to take measures to protect people using their sites and apps from harmful videos. And with the UK’s Online Safety Bill looming on the horizon, a proposed Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom intended to improve internet safety, wider duties and powers will likely be given to Ofcom and more services will be required to protect their users by means of regulation as well.

Ofcom says that over the next year, it expects urgent action from companies to protect children—including setting and enforcing effective terms and conditions for their users, quickly removing or restricting harmful content, reviewing the controls that platforms provide to their users, and publishing clear plans for protecting children from the most harmful online content, including pornography.

Related: Why Pornhub’s Account Verification Process Might Not Stop the Spread of Nonconsensual Content

At its core, the porn industry is one that prioritizes profits over people. It objectifies and commodifies human beings, reducing them to the level of a product to be consumed. This goes both for the people who consume pornography and those involved in its production.

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It’s clear that no matter how much the porn industry claims to be in the business of offering pleasure to its consumers and a glamorized career for performers, what it really cares about is its own profitability—even at the expense of and detriment to its consumers.

And unfortunately, all too often, that includes children who are underage.

Related: How You Can Bring Fight the New Drug to Your School, City, or Conference

While age verification processes can help, regulation isn’t a permanent or universal solution to stop the spread of harmful or nonconsensual content. A vital piece is for society to widely understand the harmful effects of pornography and make educational decisions about consuming it—and since kids are being exposed to porn younger and younger, that essential education needs to start at an early age.

Is it really worth it to give so much of yourself to an industry who not only doesn’t care about its consumers, but in some cases, knowingly harms them? Join us in refusing to click, and helping others—including kids—to do the same.

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