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December 05, 2005 02:35am
Protecting Children From Viewing Adult Material
Source: The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP)
by: Company Press Release

(LOS ANGELES, CA) -- The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) in its ongoing effort to educate and inform the industry about protecting children, hosted its first Industry Executive Forum (IEF) which focused on topic of Age Verification: Issues and Solutions.

ASACP invited 20 industry leaders including industry lawyers Greg Piccionelli and Lawrence Walters, and five companies with age verification solutions to spend a day to discuss this issue. The companies included Aristotle, BirthDateVerifier.com, Charge Me Later, ElectraCash and Idology.

"No one wants their children or any child to unknowingly view adult content. That's why the responsible adult sites only allow access to adult material after presenting a disclaimer page with no images. Last year ASACP added a new item to its Best Practices (BP): "On Index (warning) page: include all disclaimers, age verification, etc., and exclude images to prevent children from unknowingly viewing adult material." As the attendees at the IEF agreed, "It's just the right thing to do!" said Joan Irvine, executive director, ASACP.

However, it seems that the government believes that the industry is not doing enough to prevent children from accessing adult content. Recently the DOJ hired CRA International, a research firm, to investigate the current age verification systems. Some think that it won't be long before the government convinces Visa/MasterCard to require the merchants to use age verification when processing credit card transactions for age restricted products or services. Visa can use one of its existing terms of service to require the industry to incorporate age verification. However, the only other current safe harbor for age verification is the use of credit cards, to which the card issuers object. This leaves the industry in a quandary, which formed the basis for the discussions at the recent Forum.

Gill Sperlein and Keith Webb of Titan Media have long been advocates for the protection of children in both the online and offline worlds. They talked about how Titan Media voluntarily and actively protects children by employing the following technologies to help prevent its content from being viewed or accessible by minors: "C.O.P.S." (Child Online Protection Services from Aristotle), a highly-accurate age and identity verification service; DigimarcTM K.I.D. Safe Watermark, an embedded mark that blocks adult images; ICRA (Internet Content Rating Association) meta tags, a self-imposed rating code that flags Titan Media as an adult website for filtering software; Digital Rights Management (DRM) a Microsoft technology used by Titan Media to lock online files, preventing re-distribution and requiring age verification. In addition, before Titan Media ships any product, an adult Signature Statement is required. Although Titan Media turns away 60% of its traffic, they have consistently maintained a double digit increase in sales.

Lawrence Walters, Esq., creator of the BirthDateVerifier.com, presented information to the group regarding the potential dangers of the industry's failure to address the issue of age verification. He discussed common prosecutorial tactics wherein the government mixes the issue of protection of children with unrelated matters like obscenity prosecutions. "The government always likes to mix the issue of child protection with adult entertainment. Otherwise, they're forced to fight a pure Free Speech battle, which prosecutors prefer to avoid," Walters said. (Mr. Walters' presentation is available at ASACP.org/IEF/BDV2005.pps.)

No solution is perfect, but the industry needs to begin with something. California Assembly Member Paul Kortez addressed the group. He discussed the importance of Best Practices and the fact that AIM had BPs and a procedure for HIV testing as the main reason why the proposed California legislation for mandatory condoms did not pass last year. Koretz concluded his address by formally presenting ASACP with a Certificate of Recognition for being named to the Associations Advance America Honor roll.

It's not just adult; other industries establish BP in order to proactively address the age verification issue. This has proved to be the best Insurance policy to appease government. The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) recently released a content ratings system in an effort to head off any government attempts to step in with its own restrictions.

After the companies completed their presentation, the group discussed the various options and what the next steps should be. Options discussed were disclaimer pages, birth date verifiers, soft tours and age verification software. Issues discussed included privacy, protection against criminal prosecution, public relations, reduced traffic, reduced revenue and increased cost. There was a concern about free hosted sites, TGPs, and how they could comply with age verification requirements, given their business model and industry standards. All agreed that the industry needs to do something; otherwise, the government will use this issue as another way to discredit the industry, and justify stricter regulation and enforcement efforts.

The group decided that the best way to proceed was to educate the industry about the importance of this topic and the various ways that the industry can protect children through articles in the industries publications and continue to research this topic.

The industry is already doing more to protect minors from access to inappropriate materials than cable network, yet this is not enough for the government. The one thing everyone agreed on was that, at a minimum, every adult site should have a disclaimer page -- preferably without any images. This is already required by the two largest third party processors (Epoch and CCBill) which process for 70% of the professional adult sites. Their compliance departments have large staffs that review and monitor all their clients to validate compliance with legal and credit card company requirements. The group agreed to continue discussions and educational efforts directed at the issue of age verification. For example, there was an article in AVNOnline.com (AVNOnline.com/index.php?Primary_Navigation=Editorial& Action=View_Article&Content_ID=245109) and will be a panel: "Age Verification: Your Business and the Law" at Internext (Saturday, January 7 at 11 Am).

ASACP plans to host another IEF in six months; the topic will be determined at a later date.

The ASACP mission is to help the online entertainment industry, including adult entertainment, in its ongoing efforts to battle CP on the Internet through its CP reporting hotline. In addition, ASACP provides a self-regulatory vehicle for its adult entertainment members through a Code of Ethics that promotes the protection of children through responsible, professional business practices (ASACP.org/bestpractices.html).

For further information visit the ASACP site (ASACP.org) or contact Joan Irvine at Joan@ASACP.org

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