The Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection (ASACP) in its effort to educate and inform the industry about protecting children, hosted its first Industry Executive Forum (IEF), which focused on Age Verification: Issues and Solutions.
The organization invited 20 industry leaders, including lawyers Greg Piccionelli and Lawrence Walters, and five companies with age verification solutions to spend a day discussing the issue. Companies included Aristotle, BirthDateVerifier.com, ChargeMeLater, 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. It’s just the right thing to do,” says Joan Irvine, executive director of 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 feel 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. 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 forum.
Gill Sperlein and Keith Webb of Titan Media talked about how their company voluntarily protects children by employing the following technologies – C.O.P.S. (Child Online Protection Services from Aristotle), a highly-accurate age and identity verification service; Digimarc 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 they turn away 60 percent of their traffic, Titan has consistently maintained a double-digit increase in sales, the company reported.
Lawrence Walters, Esq., creator of the BirthDateVerifier.com, also presented information to the group regarding the potential dangers of the industry’s failure to address 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.
Walters’ presentation is available here.
California Assembly Member Paul Kortez discussed the importance of best practices and cited the fact that AIM had them, along with a procedure for HIV testing, as the main reason why proposed California legislation for mandatory condoms did not pass last year.
Some options discussed at the forum for age verification 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.
The ASACP and forum attendees are now embarking on a campaign to educate the industry about age verification and encouraging adult sites to incorporate, at minimum, disclaimer pages.
AVN Online recently published the following age verification article and will hold the panel, Age Verification: Your Business and the Law at Internext on January 7.
ASACP plans to host another IEF in six months. The topic will be determined at a later date.