So last week I met with Joan Irvine, CEO of the non-profit Association of Sites Advocating for Child Protection (ASACP). ASACP is dedicated to stopping the sexual exploitation of minors via efforts to keep child pornography off the interwebs and preventing underage persons from viewing age-restricted adult content online.
I wrote some about the work ASACP does to meet these goals, and a comment from “Anonymous Coward” (why call yourself that, friend? meh!) got me thinking a little bit more about ASACP and exactly what they’re up against…
Specifically, AC said: “I’m not really all that happy with these two aims – both admirable – being conflated.” By “aims,” I assume AC means ASCAP’s goals of contributing to the cessation of the sexual exploitation of minors and preventing underage persons from accessing age-restricted content; and by “being conflated,” I assume AC is not happy that these issues have somehow been wedded, both through ASACP’s efforts and culturally.
Wait, what?! – child porn and underage persons accessing age-restricted content are connected?
Well not directly, but consider this: when ASACP was started in 1996, the organization’s primary (and really only) objective was to stop the commercial production of child pornography. Now, given that ASACP was started by a member of the adult film industry, presumably the organization’s latent goal was to protect the integrity of commercial adult content; and, in meticulously tracking and reporting any suspected child porn sites found on the internet (none of which comes from legal adult sites), it has done just that. Then, over ten years later, ASACP began working towards preventing underage persons from accessing age-restricted content via the Restricted to Adults (RTA) meta-tag.
(pictured: porn is not for kids!!)
But, and this is what I think AC was getting at, why? Why does one small non-profit organization handle both these issues/projects? Because in actuality, some serial freak with a dungeon/playpen in his basement and an internet connection should really be handled (literally) by the FBI, the CIA, or a team of ninja assassins. And although making sure adult film sites are not purposely targeting age-inappropriate consumers may certainly be the jurisdiction of ASACP, the physical prevention of kids and teens from accessing whatever on the internet may not.
So why then is it necessary for ASACP to work so laboriously on these two overarching projects? Well, consider this…
How in the world do people find child porn anyway? Well, according to Joan Irvine, search engines (and spam emails, but I’ll save that for another blog). Meaning, people google something, or some series of somethings, that might eventually lead them to illegal content depicting child exploitation.
Given that ASACP has developed a list of Unacceptable Terms (point nine in their members’ Code of Ethics, which itemizes meta-tags, search engine keywords, and text that denote child pornography – all of which are unacceptable to use), why the heck don’t search engines just block specific words and phrases in a similar way?!
Seriously – I don’t mean Gestapo style tactics here, but what if someone were to attempt to look up “abc xyz” (I’m so not writing any of that awfulness!) and nothing came up? No chasing down the googler; just preventing that googler from accessing whatever it is that they’re looking for in the first place… I mean really – just because it’s out there doesn’t mean people should be able to get it so easily, right?
Now I know what you may be thinking – it would violate that serial freak’s right to free speech or free expression or freedom of search engine typing or something, right? So what?! We’re talking about the sexual exploitation of children here, and I think any effort to protect those kids’ rights takes precedence in this situation.
I asked Joan if perhaps one of the reasons search engines do not block such unacceptable terms and phrases centers on internet traffic and, in turn, money. Are there really enough people looking for this type of stuff such that it translates into appreciable dollars for big search engine companies? Although she couldn’t answer this being the situation, it’s a very interesting (and disturbing!) thing to consider.
Which brings us back around to RTA. The Restricted to Adults tag is not just for hardcore sites. It can also be used by “adult dating sites,” social networking sites, and mobile adult applications (read: Ashley Madison, xpeeps, Grindr, etc). If these types of sites are tagged as RTA, underage persons cannot access them from computers with the proper parental settings employed. Consequently, any number of predatory sorts who may be hoping to catch a kid playing around on mommy’s Ashley Madison or grind with a curious seventeen year old won’t get the opportunity.
(here’s another fun RTA ad, this one featuring Stormy Daniels, just because)
Albeit somewhat situational, the connection between sexual exploitation of children in various forms and underage persons accessing age-restricted content can exist; but I still don’t quite understand… Why is battling these and many associated cultural issues the sole responsibility of ASACP?
Well, even though ASACP’s mission is to best serve the industry’s child protection and social responsibility duties, this brings us back to the latent function of the organization: protecting the integrity of the adult film industry. The professional adult film industry does not produce content that involves the sexual exploitation of minors, nor does it attempt to target them as consumers; however, Joan may have hit the nail on the head when she said “If you attack parents for not using existing and free tools, you lose votes and support. If you attack google, you lose access and money. But if you attack the adult film industry… well, that’s ok isn’t it?”
(pictured: Joan Irvine, CEO of ASACP, and myriad awards)
So even though these issues may technically be out of the adult film industry’s proverbial “jurisdiction,” members of that community are the first one’s to be called out when these types of things come up.
I agree with AC – the conflation of issues surrounding child porn and underage persons accessing age-restricted content is problematic and, I would add, extremely deep-seated. They’re not the same thing! One has to do with illegal third party exploitation of minors and the other has to do with minors committing what amount to status offenses. But misunderstanding encourages us, as a culture, to equate these issues with one another and with the adult film industry rather than regard them as complex, interrelated social problems that actually have very little to do with adult film production.
Unfortunately, it’s easier to point the finger at porn, and I doubt that’s going to change anytime soon.
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Images from Google.
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