Child pornography – awful, completely unconscionable, and totally illegal. Although there is certainly some international variance, any graphic sexual image involving a person or persons under the age of 18 constitutes child pornography in the US.
The Huffington Post article I discussed last week got me thinking more about the issue of child pornography and its supposed connection to the adult film industry, a common misconception existing in US culture.
Let me restate that last part in another way: child pornography does exist in our global culture and people often attempt to connect such nastiness to the US adult film industry; however, this type of illegal and obscene content does not come from nor is it in any way connected to the US adult film industry.
How do I know? Well, due to the fact that not one rigorous academic study or criminal case has identified a connection between the two and through research done by the ASACP. Let me explain…
In spite of its uninvolvement with the production of illegal child pornography, the adult film industry has taken its own steps to identify and prevent this type of sexual exploitation. In 1996, Alec Helmy established the non-profit Association of Sites Advocating for Child Protection (ASACP). ASACP is dedicated to keeping child pornography off the interwebs and preventing underage persons from viewing adult content online. I recently met with ASACP’s CEO Joan Irvine. She explained a little bit more about how exactly the organization works to accomplish their goals.
(pictured: porn is not for kids!!)
One of ASACP’s cornerstone projects is an online hotline wherein webmasters and regular old internet users can report suspected child pornography. ASACP collects these “red flags,” winnows them for duplicates, and then reports suspected sites to the FBI and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
I was kind of skeptical about the effectiveness of this set up, but then Joan showed me some of ASACP’s stats… and they totally blew my mind. Get this: since 2003, ASACP has received 537,085 red flag reports from internet users. After winnowing for duplicates, a total of 8,133 unique instances of suspected child pornography have been reported.
Umm… holy awfulness!! however, something rather interesting in a very different way is also embedded in that amount: of the 8,133 unique red flags, a big fat zero were associated with content from legal US adult sites.
Now, this doesn’t mean that people haven’t mistaken legal adult content for child pornography on occasion. According to Joan and ASACP data, there were 2,866* mistaken reports of child pornography on legal adult sites in 2005; in 2009 there were three. In other words, legal content was mistaken for illegal child pornography 2,866 times in 2005 and three times in 2009.
Now why would it be that the number of mistaken reports had decreased to almost nothing over the course of five years? Well, according to Joan it has to do with ASACP’s suggested Best Practices (recommendations made to entities such as adult sites, social networking sites, billing companies, and adult dating sites among many many others), their members’ Code of Ethics, and overall industry compliance.
(pictured: porn – still not for kids!!)
ASACP has also set up something that I found to be extra-brilliant: the Restricted to Adults (RTA) meta-tag. ASACP provides code for the RTA label free of charge at RTAlabel.org. Webmasters simply copy and paste the code, marking their site as “Restricted to Adults.”
Oh, but evil pornographers want children to look at age-restricted content, right? Wrong!! ASACP has launched multiple campaigns to spread awareness about and encourage the use of RTA. This has included fundraisers and a series of public service announcement-type commercials featuring some of the industry’s hottest and most respected talent. Here is my favorite one featuring the legendary Ron Jeremy:
And ASACP’s efforts to spread RTA awareness have been pretty darn effective. Case in point: two million sites have self-labeled since the tag became available in 2007. Let me say that again: two million “evil pornographers” have willingly self-identified themselves as inappropriate for persons under eighteen.
And now you might be wondering “So they label themselves… Then what? How does RTA work after that?!” (I didn’t understand it either) Well, parents and guardians of underage persons simply have to go into the control panel of their computers and change the parental controls. And once they’ve been adjusted, any site with the RTA tag embedded will be blocked.
That’s it – all parents and guardians have to do is perform a little magic switch on par with changing the time zone on a computer’s clock!
So then, if two million websites have already self-labeled with RTA, why is there still such a (rhetorical) “problem” with underage persons accessing age-restricted content?
Well it may be that there are some sites that have not self-identified with RTA; and, given the more formal segments of the industry’s compliance with and support of ASACP and RTA, it’s likely these unlabeled sites are a bit more on the janky side. However, I think there may be an additional, more relevant factor contributing the “problem” of underage persons accessing age-restricted content – parental responsibility.
Now regardless of my feelings on parental responsibility, I do know this – efforts from a multitude of parties are needed to keep adult content out of the sticky little fingers of underage kiddos. The same goes for alcohol and tobacco and on and on.
The adult industry is doing their part to keep age-restricted content away from underage persons and put a stop to child abuse and exploitation while simultaneously providing legal content to willing and eager of-age consumers… are you doing yours?
*obviously these and other mistaken reports are not part of the 8,133 forwarded red flags, but just in case I needed to clarify…
(pictured: Stormy Daniels for ASACP)
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Images from Google.
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