‘Card Declined’: how ATVOD want the banks to control your internet access

As if having the government make decisions about what content you can access online (re the forthcoming filtering proposals) wasn’t enough, soon, the banks may well be too.

ATVOD, the body that regulates Video-on-Demand content in the UK (eg porn) met with financial institutions at a secret meeting yesterday to advise the banks how to do just that. As part of what ATVOD chief Pete Johnson called the organisation’s ‘primary remit’ to protect children from inappropriate internet content, Johnson had mentioned the meeting at the recent Xbiz EU conference. It alarmed anybody who thought about the undemocratic ramifications for more than a few seconds.

This ‘advice’ is based on the following logic; ATVOD’s Rule 11 sets out its duty to protect under 18s from material ‘that might seriously impair the physical, mental, or moral development of minors’. This means protecting children from porn that isn’t behind a paywall. Ergo ATVOD thinks it a good idea to approach banks and tell them to block payments for legal porn.


Suspend your disbelief for a second and stay with ATVOD’s logic. Given that the current porn model is free content to lure you in, paid content/member subscription to rack up revenue, the idea is that porn sites should have their irresponsible free content penalised by virtue of stopping payments for their paid. Somehow (although let’s remember that under 18s don’t have credit cards) stopping people purchasing porn is going to protect those minors consuming it for free.

OK, you can stop trying to follow the logic now.

The notion that banks will be able to decline credit cards at will is a major access of information and civil liberties issue. (At the Xbiz EU conference Pete Johnson reminded the audience that banks already block payments to certain pirating sites for example, but so what? That content is determinably illegal – this stuff isn’t).

But most importantly, this is an entirely illogical and ineffective way of tackling the problem of children accessing porn, ATVOD’s professed priority. That ATVOD recently removed the only adult industry representative from its board also suggests there’s some contradiction between ATVOD’s words and its actions.

And all this from a organisation that has NEVER had its remit debated in parliament but effectively ‘bought’ it from ATVOD, from a man who has made a career for himself as a professional censor on a six-figure salary, a man who couldn’t define ‘moral harm’ for me when I quizzed him, and whom assured Obscenity Lawyer Myles Jackman that ATVOD wasn’t acting Ultra Vires.






the ramifications of taking money from porn sites that potentially are allowing acess to minors.

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