UK Online Safety Bill may act to tackle the issue of consent in pornography

UK Online Safety Bill may act to tackle the issue of consent in pornography

It has often been said that global corporations may wield more power and influence than national governments.  A prime example of this has been Mastercard’s strong and principled stand against underage performers in adult content and the issue of participant consent.

Their rule book was updated last year to require those uploading content to a pornography website to prove their own age, identity, and to demonstrate that they maintained records of consent from everyone featured in the material.

In fact, VerifyMyContent was developed to provide fast and robust compliance with the new Mastercard requirements, known as AN5196.

Well, it now appears that governments, at least that of the United Kingdom, may be catching up, and potentially embedding very similar rules in the statute book.

An amendment (#114) to the Online Safety Bill, currently being considered by a House of Commons Public Bill Committee, tabled by the Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson, and with the support of the official Opposition’s frontbench, goes even further.  It requires that websites check performers in both new and existing content are over 18, and requires ongoing consent of all participants for the material to remain available.

The creation of an indefinite veto over the use of such content by those featured within it will be problematic for the industry, potentially leading to actors seeking to renegotiate fees under the threat of withdrawing their permission.  Similar legislation being considered in Japan sets a one-year limit for withdrawing consent, effectively a cooling-off period, which may be more practical, or there may need to be an acknowledgement that individuals can contractually relinquish this right in return for payment, subject of course to their consent being freely given while of sound mind.

These details will be debated in committee meetings in the next few weeks, and Opposition amendments are not always successful at this stage, but give the opportunity to discuss the issues, and lay the groundwork for amendments when the Bill returns to the floor of the House of Commons, or once it reaches the House of Lords, where more detailed, technical changes to legislation are far more frequent.

We will monitor progress of this legislation closely, in the knowledge we have a product which is already fit-for-purpose in providing acquiring banks the reassurance they need that sites are operating in line with Mastercards’ rulebook, which can be easily adapted for any additional provisions applying to the UK.‌‌

The amendment in full:‌‌

Dame Diana Johnson
Alex Davies-Jones
Barbara Keeley

Clause 68, page 60, line 13, at end insert—

“(2A) A duty to verify that every individual featured in regulated provider pornographic content is an adult before the content is published on the service.

(2B) A duty to verify that every individual featured in regulated provider pornographic content that is already published on the service when this Act is passed is an adult and, where that is not the case, remove such content from the service.

(2C) A duty to verify that each individual appearing in regulated provider pornographic content has given their permission for the content in which they appear to be published or made available by the internet service.

(2D) A duty to remove regulated provider pornographic content featuring an individual if that individual withdraws their consent, at any time, to the pornographic content in which they feature remaining on the service.”