Guest post: “Big Porn is hurting our children.”

(108 Posts)
JuliaMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 19-Oct-21 11:57:04

We asked Naomi Miles, founder of CEASE UK, the Centre to End All Sexual Exploitation, to tell us about their campaign to include Big Porn in the Online Safety Bill:

"Britain’s going to be the safest place in the world to be online, especially for children. Or at least that's what the UK Government hopes its ambitious Online Safety Bill will achieve.

The draft bill certainly prioritises the online safety of children, insisting that social media companies take on a “duty of care” towards their younger users.

However, dedicated pornography sites are not in scope of these landmark child protections. As a charity committed to the upstream prevention of sexual exploitation, we at CEASE are astounded that the commercial online porn industry doesn’t even get a mention in the draft Bill - in spite of its obvious unique and elevated risks and the mounting evidence of the industry’s complicity in sex trafficking and other criminal activity.

As our new report Expose Big Porn explains, porn sites are some of the biggest and most profitable websites in the world and yet, unlike other Big Tech industries, they’ve consistently managed to lurk in the shadows, avoiding scrutiny and accountability.

The fact is that Big Porn is hurting our children.

Firstly, porn sites give children free and easy access in order to make money. We keep children off betting sites and stop them from buying knives, cigarettes or alcohol either on or offline, but porn sites are wide open to anyone. These sites are perfectly capable of implementing some kind of age check and have been for years. Undoubtedly, maintaining zero barrier to entry supports their freemium business model, which depends on attracting as many users as possible. And perhaps these sites are not naive to the research that demonstrates children’s increased risk of porn addiction. Allowing kids onto free porn sites is equivalent to handing out free cigarettes outside the school gates. This is a future loyal customer base in the making.

While porn sites rake in profits, our children are shouldering the cost: in addition to the initial shock of exposure, research confirms that watching porn can also cause them profound psychological, social and emotional harms. It imprints twisted ideas about gender, sexuality, relationships, intimacy, sexual violence and gender equality onto their still developing minds.

Although the draft Online Safety Bill states that larger pornographic video-sharing platforms will require age verification, it seems obvious that this mandate should apply to all porn sites, regardless of their size and functionality. At very least, this will avoid leaving a wide-open loophole for the porn industry to exploit.

Secondly, mainstream popular porn sites are contaminated by unknown quantities of child sexual abuse material. This is the inevitable result of their business model which makes it easy for anyone to upload any content. Anonymous users can post videos of young-looking schoolgirls, babysitters and step-daughters. These instantaneously appear before a global audience of millions and, once they’re up, it’s almost impossible to get them back.

Many of these videos don’t actually depict children being coerced into sexual activity by their teachers, employers, coaches or family members; they’re young-looking adult women engaging in ‘role play’. But with no verification processes in place, there’s ultimately no way of knowing for sure. What we do know is that children are ending up on porn sites, and their lives are being devastated as a result. The ocean of role-play incest acts as camouflage for the real thing.

To protect our children from sexual exploitation and abuse, we must introduce legislation that will ensure porn sites either remove their video-sharing platform functionality or create robust verification processes to ensure that uploads only feature consenting adults.

And thirdly, porn sites normalise sexual violence against women and girls. The vast majority of porn represents harmful sexist stereotypes: men are sexually dominant and aggressive, whereas women are passive sex objects who exist to gratify men.

Online porn is having profound, real-world consequences. It’s incubating harmful sexual attitudes and behaviours in our boys, and pressurising our girls into acquiescing to sexual acts they find painful or humiliating for fear of being labelled as ‘prudes’. Ultimately, it’s driving the sexual violence that we’re learning is endemic in our schools and universities.

Recent research from Durham University highlights how one in eight titles shown to first-time users on the first page of mainstream porn sites describe some form of sexual violence (including incest, physical aggression, image-based sexual abuse and depictions of coercion and exploitation).

Not only does much of this ‘extreme’ pornography violate porn sites’ own terms and conditions, but it’s also is illegal in the UK. The industry won’t bother to clamp down on this popular and profitable content unless its hand is forced.

As parents, we must make our voices heard. We have the opportunity to ensure that the Online Safety Bill introduces robust regulation to protect our children from the online commercial porn industry. Take action today and write to your MP."

Note from CEASE: CEASE is keen to connect with people who have stories about the porn industry's impact on children. If you're a parent, teacher, a professional in a related sector, or a young adult who experienced porn as a child, and are willing to speak about your experience, feel free to contact Naomi on naomi.miles@cease.org.uk. Thanks.

CEASE is on twitter here and their CEO Vanessa Morse is here. Naomi will be coming back onto the thread on Monday to answer your questions so get posting if you have any!

OP’s posts: |
cleckheatonwanderer Tue 19-Oct-21 12:46:30

I used the link to write to my MP, thanks for all your hard work

ChattyLion Tue 19-Oct-21 12:48:00

Agree this is a really important opportunity to ask MPs to do something about this. The link given above from CEASE is: cease.eaction.org.uk/onlinesafetybill
The committee mentioned above, reports on the draft bill on 10 Dec, so it’s worth getting on with doing this.
members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP

Could CEASE say a bit more about what the actual asks are that MPs could do to help to combat this problem?
Is it solely about (18 years and over) age check verification or are there other issues we need to ask MPs to take action on too, to protect children?

Honorable mention should go here to Nick Fletcher MP (Con) who has remained active on age verification on porn websites. As a Labour voter myself it’s extremely disappointing that Labour doesn’t campaign on this. hmm The Tories’ manifesto said they would take action on in 2015 and they still haven't done so in successive governments.. this is worth a read: www.conservativehome.com/platform/2020/10/nick-fletcher.html

I would also consider copying in Robert Halfon MP (Con) who was calling for further inquiry around sexual assaults and rapes and rape culture in schools because these issues are going to be linked to underage exposure to pornography. Robert Halfon is chair of the Commons education select committee. Also perhaps to copy in to the Women and Equalities select committee (Chaired by Caroline Nokes MP, also a Conservative) as porn culture in schools is a systemic equality problem affecting girls as well as an education and schools behaviour/discipline issue.

Porn culture affects children and young people in such dangerous ways and it’s great to see CEASE acting on this. Thank you.

RestingStitchFace Tue 19-Oct-21 12:54:21

Definitely worth fighting for. Have emailed my MP

LalalalalalaLand123 Tue 19-Oct-21 13:14:11

Thank you so much for fighting for this, it is so important. I will contact my MP.

llambingtime Tue 19-Oct-21 13:45:34

Thank you for trying to address this massive elephant in the room. It really is massive - but I cannot see how the government can ignore porn if it is serious about addressing the widespread misogyny in society.

llambingtime Tue 19-Oct-21 13:45:34

Thank you for trying to address this massive elephant in the room. It really is massive - but I cannot see how the government can ignore porn if it is serious about addressing the widespread misogyny in society.

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Skyla2005 Tue 19-Oct-21 14:10:04

I really do not understand how it's been allowed for so long absolute disgrace our kids are not protected from this and the massive consequences it has for our future society

aModernClassic Tue 19-Oct-21 14:44:04

Thank you. I've just used the link to email my useless MP.
Finger crossed we can make a difference.

Backhometothenorth Tue 19-Oct-21 14:45:27

Thank you - have emailed my MP

Enterthedragons Tue 19-Oct-21 14:51:37

Completely agree, thank you for this. have emailed my MP.

CarvingHarris Tue 19-Oct-21 14:53:52

@OP I’ve emailed to my local MP as instructed. This is something that is really raw for me as I have a dc who porn has harmed severely and we are still paying hundreds for treatment as of today. Saw an explicit fetishising online when he was about nine and became addicted. It was only in lockdown last yr that he finally broke down and told he was about to end his life. Thank you so much for starting this.

foolonthehill Tue 19-Oct-21 16:50:51

I've emailled my MP...who knows perhaps they will take a stand

EmbarrassingHadrosaurus Tue 19-Oct-21 18:54:27

I'll email my MP. Thank you for this campaign.

Dojacatpaws Tue 19-Oct-21 18:59:12

Have emailed my mp, thank you

WorkHardPlayHard1 Tue 19-Oct-21 19:33:51

Done! Thank you for sending the link and to whoever drafted the automatic email! To my MP! 🙏🏼👏👑😊xx

TheGonnagle Tue 19-Oct-21 19:45:55

I’ve written to my thoroughly obnoxious and useless MP in the vain hope he might be of some use.

PaleGreenGhost Tue 19-Oct-21 20:57:06

Thanks. This is really useful.

SpindelWhorl Tue 19-Oct-21 21:31:34

TheGonnagle

I’ve written to my thoroughly obnoxious and useless MP in the vain hope he might be of some use.

I guess it's better that we do than don't, TheGonnagle.

Then when they say 'it never comes up' we can challenge them.

SpindelWhorl Tue 19-Oct-21 21:47:48

(I already emailed mine.)

Tzigane Tue 19-Oct-21 22:35:44

Thanks will email my MP tomorrow.

Haggisfish3 Tue 19-Oct-21 23:38:14

I’m also going to email. Had a thoroughly depressing lesson with year 11 lads about porn hub and extreme sexual practices being the norm today ( I teach pshe).

Ermengarde Wed 20-Oct-21 01:27:41

Thank you for raising awareness. I’ve emailed my MP.

Sunkisses Wed 20-Oct-21 06:09:41

I will email my MP, but I am also asking for the Government to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017, as this legislates for porn sites to have age verification procedures to prevent children having easy access. This legislation has already been passed, and it just needs to be enacted. The Government could do it now if it chooses to. Every day they fail to implement age verification, they are putting more children at risk. It is a scandal they haven't already implemented it now. The Online Harms Bill will take years to be debated and passed, as it is mired in controversy.

PamDenick Wed 20-Oct-21 06:28:07

Thank you - will write to my MP

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