UK Parliament Committee Discussion of Digital Economy Bill this Afternoon

Live from Westminster: the House of Lords will be commencing the committee stage discussion of the Digital Economy Bill. The full committee will have the opportunity to either support of reject the bill's policies.

 Photo credit: Wikipedia DK.

Photo credit: Wikipedia DK.

The DEB (Digital Economy Bill) saw an update last year from it's 2014 proposal, which had already considered several sex acts to be harmful, unethical and therefore legislators were seeking to outlaw them. Many of those listed pertained to or orientated around female sexual arousal as well as homosexual intercourse and several widely accepted fetishes.

The bill's proposal saw an increase in niche adult content providers being contacted, sent fines or legal documentation to either change or suspend their services. Many of those operating for niche kinks / fetish communities felt that it violated their civil rights and sexual freedoms as well as marginalising them as means of asserting greater control over online content. This was a hot topic of discussion during the 'Sex and Censorship' presentation from panelists in the 2014 XBIZ Conference, lead by free speech activist and Sex and Censorship organisation founder Jerry BarnettItziar Urrutia of Urban Chick Supremacy Cell shared her own experience with these measures imposed by ATVOD and her subsequent court hearing. You can read more about the event discussion here.

As part of the initiative set forth by ATVOD, a private organisation working on behalf of Ofcom, specific adult content providers were also instructed to become a paying member as a means of ensuring compliance through regulatory checks as well as implementing age verification policies that use CAC systems. 

Now with the new DEB2 draft making its way through Parliament, the legislation is potentially set to be compulsory across all adult content provider platforms operating within the UK or with customers based in the UK. Failure to comply would result in nation-wide blocks. 

The policies outlined include:

  • Opt-ins for adult content access.
  • Age verification to access adult content.
  • Nationwide block of sites depicting 'unconventional sex acts' such as fisting and penetration with objects linked with violence.
  • Other kink-related acts such as spanking, caning, whipping, knife & needle play etc. Essentially anything that could leave marks the skin.
  • Content that shows female ejaculation or menstrual blood.
  • Anything that appears to be non-consensual such as rape scenarios, anything linked with sexual violence towards women, gang rape scenarios etc.
  • As well as anything that would be labelled as obscene under the 1959 Obscenity Publications Act such as anything appearing to encourage incestuous interactions, bestiality or child sexual abuse.

Any international operators depicting the prohibited content would automatically be blocked throughout the UK.

While industry leaders and free speech advocates support child and animal protection, what concerns them is that there appears to be a mass grouping of various acts that shouldn't be categorised with the same severity. There is a danger in that hand selecting acts that are, in the appropriate conditions, generally deemed to be harmless i.e. all parties involved are consenting adults exploring sex acts respectfully, is sounding a message that only a specific approach to sexuality is to be deemed socially acceptable. Also, that it creates a legal window for more surveillance, data retention and as mentioned previously, censorship.

Though organisations and MPs involved in the Bill's policy making stress that this is not the area of their concerns, little has been done to assure the public or the industry.

The new regulatory body given charge of overseeing the compliance of online and DVD footage is the BBFC; the British Board of Film Classification who regulates the age rating of all film releases within the UK. 

According to The Independent, the BBFC's interests specifically lies with Child Protection and not with Internet Policing:

A Department for Media, Culture and Sport spokesperson said: "The BBFC is not being asked to police the Internet. The focus of this legislation is to protect children with the same safeguards online as as they have offline.
"The BBFC is already working positively with adult pornography sites to ensure the protections in this bill will achieve this objective."

Today's committee discussion will be streamed live via the official Parliament Online TV platform. It's duration length is currently unknown but the discussion is expected to continue over several days to adequately discuss the policies contained within the bill. The house meeting commences at 2:30pm today and the full agenda can be seen via the website.