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Is age verification effective in preventing children from viewing pornography?

Despite the criticism that the legislation has been watered down, the UK government is standing by its amendments to the Online Safety Bill, claiming that it will protect children from potentially dangerous content on the internet. However, safety groups maintain that it is too easy for children to access pornography online, despite the improved age verification measures.

According to research by Ofcom, one-third of children can view adult content on social media platforms by providing a false date of birth to bypass age restrictions. To combat this issue, the bill requires websites that publish pornography to implement more rigorous measures to ensure that all users are over the age of 18.

Campaigners are demanding action.

Suppose websites do not take the necessary steps to prevent underage access. In that case, Ofcom could impose a fine of up to 10% of their global turnover, and the operators of the sites could be held criminally liable. These steps could involve adults utilizing age verification technology to prove they are over 18 with a credit card or having a third-party service verify their age with government data.

Proposals to mandate commercial porn providers to verify users’ ages or face a UK ban, otherwise known as porn blockers, were abandoned in 2019.

Data privacy concerns

There is a growing fear amongst experts and mothers that young people’s understanding of healthy relationships, sex, and consent is being distorted by their exposure to porn, putting them at risk from predators and making them less likely to report abuse. Internet Matters, an online safety group, reported that more than half of mothers are concerned that it gives their children a negative image of women.

Companies must decide how to best comply with the new rules, and Ofcom may suggest using age verification technologies. OnlyFans, the UK’s biggest adult content site, has made it mandatory for new UK subscribers to use third-party tools from Yoti and Ondato. Although age verification is commonly used in online gambling, there are still concerns about the level of privacy it affords. Campaigners have cautioned that a database of pornography users could be an attractive target for blackmailers if hacked.

Ms. Horten of the Open Rights Group, which aims to protect digital rights and freedoms, stated that the bill created a “Hobson’s choice” for content for children. She stated that the platforms would have to completely block them out or sanitize their platform to the level of the youngest person likely to use the service. Additionally, she added that the only other option would be to use AI systems and biometric data to guess the age of users, which she said “raised serious privacy concerns”.

Iain Corby, the executive director of the Age Verification Providers Association, stated that the businesses he represents had created a variety of techniques to confirm someone’s age online without revealing their identity to the websites they access. He explained that a bouncer at a nightclub might guess your age by your appearance. AI software can estimate your age through a selfie or voice recording. Tests have shown this to be more accurate than the average bouncer.

Stricter legal limits may call for the use of more traditional age verification methods, such as passports or driving licenses, which allow you to prove your age without having to reveal your identity, thus allowing you to remain anonymous online if desired.


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Protecting EU Citizens from Nonconsensual Pornographic Deepfakes Law in 2023

The European Union’s current and proposed laws fail to adequately protect citizens from the harms of nonconsensual pornographic deepfakes—AI-generated images, audio, or videos that use an individual’s likeness to create pornographic material without their consent. To protect victims of this abuse, the EU must take steps to amend existing legislative proposals and encourage soft law approaches.

Although deepfakes have legitimate commercial uses, 96 percent of deepfake videos found online are nonconsensual pornography. Perpetrators can use them to harass, extort, offend, defame, or embarrass individuals by superimposing their likeness onto sexual material without permission. The ease of creating and distributing deepfakes due to the increasing availability of AI tools has made this form of abuse easier than ever.

The Digital Services Act (DSA) obliges platforms to demonstrate the procedures by which illegal content can be reported and taken down. However, this will have little impact on the spread of nonconsensual pornographic deepfakes since the bill does not classify them as illegal. The DSA also does not cover 94 percent of deepfake pornography, which is hosted on dedicated pornographic websites instead of mainstream platforms. Moreover, the EU dropped a proposal in the DSA that would have required porn sites hosting user-generated content to swiftly remove material flagged by victims as depicting them without permission.

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) Act, likely to pass into law in 2023, requires creators to disclose deepfake content. But this does little to protect victims, as the demand for deepfakes does not depend on their authenticity. The Directive on Gender-Based Violence proposed in 2022 criminalizes sharing intimate images without consent and could include deepfakes in its scope. However, the bill fails to cover nudity that is not explicitly sexual and sexual imagery that is not wholly nude. Moreover, it only applies to material made accessible to many end-users when even sharing deepfakes with a single person can cause great harm.

These legislative proposals must be amended to protect victims better and deter perpetrators. Additionally, the EU should encourage soft law approaches such as public awareness campaigns, self-regulatory codes of practice, and the development of deepfake detection tools by law enforcement. With a combination of hard and soft law approaches, the EU can protect its citizens from the harms of nonconsensual pornographic deepfakes.

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Selfcare & Sexual Wellness

Uncovering the Fetish Videos Lurking on TikTok

It’s no secret that TikTok is full of videos that are seemingly innocent but are actually disguised as fetish content. From bizarre life hacks to footage of someone being tied up, these videos reflect what some people find erotic. What’s more, these videos are being watched by children, which is the minimum age requirement for the app.

Foot fetishists, food fetishists, and those fascinated by messiness have all found a home on TikTok. While the platform does not allow videos that depict sexual fetishes, the definition of what constitutes a sexual fetish can be blurry.

Videos that appear to show a spray-on tattoo application, or a bride cutting a bridesmaid’s dress, can appear to be harmless but are actually porn for someone. To spot hidden fetish videos, we can think back to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous phrase: “I know it when I see it.”

Videos that feature cheesy soundtracks, leering camera angles, and an excessive buildup to an anticlimactic reveal are all signs of potential fetish content. Foot fetish videos are particularly popular, with videos showing people giving foot massages and stepping on gross items. Food fetishism is also prevalent, with videos featuring feeding fetishes and weird recipes.

Sploshing is another popular fetish involving someone being covered in a messy substance, such as food, mud, slime, or paint. Although it’s unclear what kind of effect this content may have on children, it’s worth noting that it’s out there and being watched. Letting people who will do anything for views potentially influence the psyches of our youth is a dangerous experiment that we’re conducting on humanity.

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Gender Inclusion: A Step Forward in Meta’s Adult Content Nudity Policy

Oversight Board has advised Meta to update this aspect of its adult content nudity policy to make it more gender-inclusive. The Oversight Board, composed of lawyers, academics, and human rights experts, declared that Instagram’s policy regarding adult content nudity was discriminatory and unworkable due to its gender exclusion.

Specifically, the board recommended that the photo-sharing app allow non-binary people’s nipples to be shown on the platform, just like male nipples are already permitted.

Making the declaration on January 17, 2022, the board said that the nipple-related rules needed updating for the sake of clarity as well as inclusiveness.

“The restrictions and exceptions to the rules on female nipples are extensive and confusing, particularly as they apply to transgender and non-binary people. Exceptions to the policy range from protests to scenes of childbirth and medical and health contexts, including top surgery and breast cancer awareness,” the board said.

The board concluded that the current exceptions to the policy are too ill-defined, creating confusion for both users and reviewers. Such an approach, they claimed, was not practical when moderating content at scale. Furthermore, it was a violation of international human rights standards.

“Such an approach makes it unclear how the rules apply to intersex, non-binary and transgender people, and requires reviewers to make rapid and subjective assessments of sex and gender, which is not practical when moderating content at scale.”

Meta now has 60 days to respond to the board’s recommendations and change its adult content nudity policy for the sake of gender inclusivity. Whether or not Instagram will act on this advice remains to be seen, but it is likely that the platform will come under pressure to do so or risk undermining the point of the independent board.

Therefore, one can anticipate that the platform will soon feature a greater variety of nipples, including non-binary nipples, and that the current ban on female nipples will be relaxed. This does not mean that Instagram is set to become a hub of sexually explicit content, but rather that the rules regarding gender inclusivity will be updated and more clearly defined.

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