When my hero, awe-inspiring editor Tom Hymes, woke up from one of his late-morning naps, wiped the drool from his chin, and gave me a story to do on Adult Sites Against Child Pornography (ASACP), I thought it would be a snap to knock out the required words about such a well-known and well-established entity. After all, everyone who's anyone within the adult online space already knows all there is to know about ASACP, right?
Nope, that's not necessarily the truth these days. There's a whirlwind of change in the air and it's bound to affect every Website operator linked to www.asacp.org, and bound to interest anyone with an opinion on the acceptability of presenting legal content in a manner designed to attract Lolita-seeking surfers.
But first, a few brief paragraphs on ASACP's history, just in case there actually is some lone Webmaster out there who isn't already familiar with the organization.
ASACP aims to represent the adult Internet community by accepting reports of suspected child pornography, investigating such reports, and reporting sites validated as genuine child porn to the U.S. Customs Service and the FBI. Since the organization's establishment in 1996, ASACP has reviewed over 50,000 reports of suspect sites, of which 25,800 are unique. As of this writing, more than 10,600 sites have been reported to governmental authorities, who have shut down more than 6,100 of them.
"The idea for ASACP came to me during the early days of the industry, back in 1996," says Alec Helmy, president of HELMY Enterprises, which operates ASACP. "We were seeing increased media coverage on the subject of online child pornography that seemed to label our industry as the cause of the problem, which, as we all agree - it is not. I felt that the adult industry would welcome a channel for voicing its disapproval of such content.
"I recall surfing to learn more about the problem of online child pornography and the ways to report it. To my surprise there were very few, most of which didn't provide sufficient information. I felt that this presented an opportunity to create a portal for the purpose of reporting suspect sites and helping raise awareness about the subject. The rest is history. As it turns out, the industry really embraced the idea."
Earlier this year, Helmy came to the realization that the demand for ASACP's services was expanding beyond the point of what his volunteer-based resources could support. What was needed was a solution that would prevent any scaling back or stunting of the organization's growth while simultaneously allowing Helmy and his staff to cut back on the number of hours they were committing to the cause. What was needed was someone who could come in and focus exclusively on the development and management of ASACP's growth.
Meet Joan Irvine.
"After meeting with Joan," says Helmy, "I was confident that she was the candidate we had been looking for. She is a dynamic self-starter who has the experience and vision necessary for ASACP to continue its growth and mission."
As the first ever Executive Director of ASACP, Irvine has her work cut out for her. "Alec has been funding this project for six and a half years," says Irvine. "He's been laboring on behalf of his own commitment to combating child pornography. He's been paying, out of his own pocket, for somebody to review all of the reported sites on a daily basis.
"In order to support the expansion and meet the growing demands for ASACP's services, ASACP needs to be run like a business. Alec had wanted to turn ASACP into a non-profit organization in order to show the government that we are going by their rules, and in order to become a non-profit, we need to make sure that the industry supports what we're doing, that the industry does in fact want us to keep doing the work we do because there are costs associated with running a non-profit organization such as this."
To that end, Irvine has begun gathering corporate sponsorships in order to help share the cost among the other interested parties in the adult industry. Among the first to come aboard as sponsors are Adult Revenue Service, MaxCash, Adam&Eve, the Free Speech Coalition, XBiz, and AVN.
"Our organization is only as strong as the industry support it receives," said Irvine. "As the industry increasingly participates in a concerted way, ASACP stands to be better able to deflect some of the governmental pressure on our industry, and that's highly relevant especially in light of the Bush administration's increased focus on obscenity."
Helmy is betting on Irvine's knowledge of and experience with running an association as a business. "Most recently," says Irvine, "I worked at an association called VIC, the Virtual International Community, which was an association supporting new media and digital professionals. I served as the Vice President of Membership there, putting together membership programs, and I look forward to applying this experience when implementing a more formalized business structure for ASACP."
But for all the people already familiar with the workings of ASACP, there is an obvious question: If it ain't broke, why fix it? Indeed, it's perfectly reasonable to wonder why an organization whose basic function is reviewing and reporting child pornography-containing Websites - to ask why would such a straight-forward, singular mission have any need to adopt a more sophisticated business structure?
The answer lies in understanding that combating displays of child pornography online requires more battlefronts than the one used for reporting suspect sites. True success requires stronger alliances both within the adult industry and with mainstream organizations outside of it.
"To combat child pornography, to become a broad-based association of entities, is going to require developing a stronger code of ethics; it is a process that needs to be industry-driven and that's why it will be developed by the advisory council," says Irvine.
"To that end, we're forming an advisory council made up of prominent industry members - so far we have Aly Drummond, Samantha Lee, Bill Lyons, Gary Kremen, of course Alec (Helmy), and we're looking forward to including representatives from billing companies as well. When you're here trying to do it all, you have a tendency to be too sheltered and you need to be out there getting additional input.
"Once we've enhanced our code of ethics, we'll be announcing a more formalized membership program. We're going to be adding a requirement that membership sites be reviewed. Some specific changes to the code of ethics are that member sites will not imply that child pornography is on their site, and that they will not do business, including affiliate programs, with companies that are questionable in their policies relating to child pornography.
"Other prospective changes to the code are stronger and more progressive. In the past, we haven't had the resources to actually go and take a look at our member sites to make sure they were meeting the code of ethics. We haven't been active in self-regulating the sites in that way, but that's about to change.
"When we have our advisory council, we're going to see how far to go. Do we go as far as the restrictions VISA puts on the credit card processors? Will we not allow sites that use certain key words - including 'Lolita,' 'preteen,' 'kids' - even if the site's actual content is legal? It's going to be a real interesting conversation about how much of that we're going to be incorporating into our code of ethics. The new policies may reduce the number of membership sites that we have, but if it slows down, it would be slowing down for the right purpose.
"It's very important as I'm developing and putting together these programs to have [industry] input. If I'm not active in seeking it, they're definitely going to let me know anyway. I have not met people who were shy or did not have their own opinion about how to deal with child pornography, and I happen to like hearing all those opinions.
"Currently, we're in a transition phase where we are becoming better able to devote more time and energy to helping the industry make a difference in stopping the proliferation of child pornography. I am looking forward to working closely with the industry as ASACP moves forward."