Free Speech Coalition’s Duke Argues Against Censorship at UK Roundtable

March 7, 2014

uk-british-internet-porn-filter-censorshipFree Speech Coalition president Diane Duke argued forcefully against new UK censorship rules at a London roundtable sponsored by Virgin Media. The discussion, “Switched on Families: Does the Online World Make Good Things Happen?” was prompted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s campaign to censor content at the ISP level. The panel included government representatives, members of the press and supporters of an open Internet. A report on the meeting was printed in the Guardian on Wednesday.

“We applaud the Virgin Media roundtable for taking on a tough issue, and for the Guardian for acknowledging the extent to which these new government-imposed ISP filters can actually harm children,” says Duke. “The filters Prime Minister Cameron supports block sexual health sites, they block domestic violence sites, they block gay and lesbian sites, they block information about eating disorders and a lot of information to which it’s crucial young people have access. Rather than protect children from things like bullying and online predators, these filters leave children in the dark.”

According to a Guardian report, a majority of those participating came away from the panel opposing ISP-level filters. Under the conservative Prime Minister’s directive, internet providers in the UK automatically block any content it deems adult in nature. Internet users who wish to not have their content filter must make a special request to their internet provider.

“If government officials want to protect kids from predators and age-inappropriate material, there are proven and effective means to do it,” said Duke. “They involve parental control, monitoring and discussions. Unfortunately, none has the political appeal of a ‘magic filter’ that promises stop things like child abuse, teen pregnancy and sexual assault by merely censoring content.”

The panel included representatives from over a dozen groups including the UK Council on Child Safety, the Family Online Safety Institute, and Big Brother Watch. Also participating in the discussion was Member of Parliament Claire Perry, who has long advocated for filters at the ISP level, and whose own site was initially blocked by filters due to repeated use of phrases like “porn” and “sex.”

While Duke was optimistic about the discussion, she admits there was a lot of work yet to do.

“There is so much misinformation out there, and the stakes are high. It’s important for us to be at the table, and to refuse to let moral panics be used to limit speech.”


Censorship in the UK

February 14, 2014

censoredRegulators in the UK are creating an unprecedented wave of censorship that not only pushes for filters at the ISP level, but also criminal prosecution for consumers of what government officials consider “extreme porn.”  I have had the pleasure to work with a group of anti-censorship activists in the UK who are standing strong to protect speech in the UK and curtail the crusade UK’s Prime Minister Cameron has waged against adult content. As is always the case, those who wish to control speech try to marginalize people and groups who stand up against censorship by labeling them extreme. That is why I felt compelled to ask Jerry Barnett – the founder of Sex and Censorship – to provide a brief overview of censorship in the UK.  Jerry has been labeled as extreme because he refused to crawl into bed with UK regulators and instead consistently fights for the rights of content producers and all citizens of the UK.  Thank you Jerry and your coalition of anti-censorship grassroots activists for your incredible work. – FSC CEO Diane Duke

From Jerry Barnett…

While we at Sex & Censorship are following – with increasing trepidation – the endless drift towards censorship in the UK, we’re sometimes reminded that many of our supporters can’t keep up with all the news and events. That’s hardly surprising: Britain is currently experiencing wave after wave of moral panic, and it seems that hardly a week goes by without more bad news for free expression.

So here is a brief round-up of some of the main issues comprising British censorship at present.

Of course, a short blog post can’t hope to explain everything that’s taking place. I’m currently documenting British censorship in a book, Porn Panic: please join our mailing list to be alerted when this is published.

Law

  • The Obscene Publications Act: the granddaddy of all censorship laws, outlawing the distribution of content that might “deprave and corrupt” its audience.
  • Video Recordings Act: since 1984(!) the BBFC (a private organization) has had the right to censor videos and DVDs, and they seem to have a particular problem with pornography, making UK video among the most censored in Europe.
  • Protection of Children Act: originally designed to criminalize images of child abuse, but sometimes misused, even to harass viewers of legitimate pornography.
  • Dangerous Cartoons Act: yes, you can become a sex offender for possessing a sexual cartoon featuring a character that might appear to be under-age - such as seen in popular Japanese anime cartoons.
  • Extreme Porn Law: three years in jail for possessing images of what the government considers to be “extreme pornography” – even if they are images of yourself participating in consensual sex with your own partner.
  • Rape Porn: a planned extension to the extreme porn law whereby you can be jailed for possessing an image of a sexual act that appears to be non-consensual (whether it is actually consensual or not). Quick, delete those bondage photos!
  • Gagging law: no, it’s not about blowjobs: it’s a serious attack on the rights of political campaigning organizations to speak freely, disguised as a law to regulate lobbying.

Regulation

  • Although they’ve never been mandated by Parliament or the British people to do so, Ofcom have consistently refused to allow hardcore sex on TV: even on adult channels at 3am. Almost all other EU countries, and the US, allow porn to be broadcast.
  • A private body, ATVOD, has taken it upon itself to drive much of the online porn industry out of the country, or out of business, by mandating strict website guidelines that make profitable business effectively impossible. They claim an EU directive gives them this right, although strangely, none of the other 26 EU member states have taken this action, and erotic/sexual material continues to be sold legally elsewhere in Europe without such restrictions.
  • Internet blocking: There were at least two attempts to introduce mandatory Internet censorship laws into Parliament last year; while these both failed, we expect similar laws to have more success in the near future.

ISPs

  • Mobile networks: since 2004, mobile operators have voluntarily censored Internet access from phones until the owner proves they are over 18. This censorship covers all sorts of material, and many adults as well as teenagers are denied access to much of the Internet from their mobile phones.
  • Broadband filtering: since December, ISPs have voluntarily begun to offer “porn filters” to home-owners, under the pretext of “protecting children”. However, these filters block, not just porn, but dozens of categories of content for entire households, and offer the bill payer a means of restricting Internet access for others in the same household.

Policing Speech

A raft of laws against “malicious communication” and “terrorism” have been used to jail people for speech alone. Increasingly, the important line between expression and action is becoming blurred in the eyes of the UK authorities. These days, writing can be considered terrorism, and jokes tweeted in poor taste can see you dragged into court.

Academia

There is a worrying trend towards increasing censorship within universities, which (one would have hoped) should be beacons of free expression, debate and discussion. For example, several student unions have banned the Sun newspaper, not for its dodgy news or political bias, but for displaying that most terrible thing, the female nipple. Atheist groups have also had material banned in case it offends religious groups.

Censored UK is a reality.


RIP: Gloria Leonard

February 4, 2014

all_about_gloria_leonard_HP03129_LGloria Leonard died last night in Hawaii after suffering a massive stroke only days earlier. She is referred to as the “doyenne” of the erotic film industry by IMDb.com. Truly a pioneer, Leonard was a star of the Golden Age of adult movies, from 1974 to 1984; the publisher of mens’ magazine High Society; a staunch supporter of the First Amendment; and a groundbreaking feminist.

Ms. Leonard also was served as administrative director of the Adult Film and Video Association of America, the adult film industry trade association, from 1989, until that organization merged with the Free Speech Coalition in 1992. In 1998, she was elected president of the FSC.

She fought for the right of free expression and sexuality. Contributions made by Ms. Leonard have paved the way for generations of performers after her. She showed the world that the adult industry is a place where strong, talented women can blossom and succeed.

Good friend and former performer Veronica Vera posted on Facebook this morning, “Last night at 7:22pm, Robin Leonardi communicated to me the sad news that her mom, our beloved Gloria Leonard had passed. She asked that I hold off posting anything last night. Gloria passed with her daughter by her side. Robin’s message: ‘She’s passed. Wish her well on her journey.’ RIP, dear Gloria.”

AVN Hall of Fame Director Roy Karch wrote, “There was only one; a rare feather in the wind that we were lucky enough to have touched our cheeks as it passed this way. Blessed be Gloria, dearest one.”

Industry writer Jared Rutter wrote, “One of a kind, she was a bright light in a shady world.”

She will be missed by family, friends, fans and all those that knew her.


Assemblymember Isadore Hall Reintroduces Condom Legislation as AB 1576

January 31, 2014

320px-California_Capitol,_Sacramento,_CaliforniaFree Speech Coalition (FSC) has learned today new legislation that would mandate barrier protection for adult performers was introduce to the California Assembly by Assemblymember Isadore Hall (D – Compton).

The new bill is called AB 1576 and was introduced prior to the deadline for new bills to reach the assembly. This is the third time that Assemblymember Hall has attempted to push through mandatory barrier protection; in 2013, he sponsored both AB 332 and 640 in unsuccessful bids to legislate condom use in the adult production industry.

“This measure will further drive production out of state and create severe hardships for ancillary businesses,” said FSC CEO Diane Duke. “Last year, we were able to defeat AB 332 and 640 by going to Sacramento to lobby. It made a big difference for legislators to see people show up to protest those bills. When we go there again, to fight AB 1576, we will really need the assistance of everyone in the industry – our livelihood in California is at stake.”

The primary advocate for mandatory condom regulations is nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which has supported Hall’s campaigns to have the bills passed into law. This latest attempt to mandate barrier protection usage is the latest development in AHF’s nearly ten-year long campaign to force legislation on the adult industry.


Winners of the 2014 FSC Award Winners Announced

January 7, 2014

vimoFree Speech Coalition (FSC) is honored to announce the winners of the 2014 FSC Awards, to be presented at the XBIZ 360 conference on January 22, in Hollywood, Ca.  The awards are in recognition for excellence in business and outstanding service to the adult industry business community.

The recipient of this year’s Legacy Award – which recognizes innovation, successful business practices and contributions to the industry as a whole – will be presented to Vivid Entertainment founder Steven Hirsch.

The Positive Image Award is presented to performers that have helped to dispel negative stereotypes and misconceptions connected to work in the adult industry. This year’s award goes to performer James Deen.

Man and Woman of the Year Awards are given to business professionals that have shown exceptional leadership in building solidly established businesses, as well as within their communities. 2014 Woman of the Year is Honey’s Place owner Bonnie Feingold, and Man of the Year is Pipedream’s Nick Orlandino.

Novelty Company of the Year will be presented to California Exotic Novelties for their many years as a leader in the pleasure products sector, and for their continued innovation, high standards and ethics.

Retailer of the Year will be presented to the Lions’ Den chain of adult stores for many years as a leading retailer of adult products, innovative marketing and ethical standards for customer service.

Production Company of the Year goes to gay studio Hothouse Entertainment. Founded by Hall of Fame director Steven Scarborough, Hothouse exemplifies creative innovation, high standards and ethical conduct.

Internet Company of the Year will be presented to Gamelink. The award recognizes excellence, innovation and contributions made to the adult industry overall.

Benefactor of the Year has been awarded to Wicked Pictures. The recognition is for unwavering support, through philanthropy and advocacy, of adult industry and mainstream causes. As well as setting a good example, the company also has diligently attempted to protect the adult industry business community from legal challenges, business risks and critics.

Finally, the Leadership Award – to be presented at the XBIZ Awards gala on January 24 – is given to an individual or individuals that have demonstrated leadership by example. This year’s award will be presented to performer Nina Hartley and director Ernest Greene for their outstanding work in advocacy, education and community service.

The FSC Awards presentation will be held at 6pm, on January 22, at the W Hotel in Hollywood, CA, in conjunction with the FSC Summit and XBIZ 360 conference. For more information on these events, contact info@freespeechcoalition.com or (818) 348-9373.

 


FSC Announces New Members to Board of Directors

December 27, 2013

santamegaphoneFree Speech Coalition (FSC) is proud to announce new members to its Board of Directors. The Board election was open to all active FSC members and was held during the month of December.

Incumbent board members that were re-elected include Bob Christian, Larry Garland and Christian Mann.

Mark Schechter owner, ATMLA (Adult Talent Managers Los Angeles), was one of two newly elected board members.  “I am honored to be elected to the Board of Directors of the FSC.  I am excited with the opportunity to contribute to the FSC organization and have a positive effect onto the Adult Industry and the people who are a part of it,” Schechter commented.

Also newly elected to the Board was adult content producer and photographer Mo Reese, who voiced his appreciation, “I would like to thank FSC members for their support – it is an honor to have earned a seat on the board of directors. I look forward to taking a more active role in helping our industry move in a positive, productive direction.”

Members of the board in good standing include Peter Acworth, Jeffrey Douglas, Alec Helmy, Marci Hirsch, Joel Kaminsky, Mark Kernes, Reed Lee and Lynn Swanson, bringing the total number of seats to thirteen.

“FSC is fortunate to have a group of highly intelligent, energetic and inspirational people to lead our organization,” said Diane Duke Free Speech Coalition’s CEO.  “Looks like 2014 will be a great year!”


ADULT PRODUCTION MORATORIUM LIFTED

December 12, 2013

Final Test Results Come Up Negative; Performers May Return to Work After Retesting

The Free Speech Coalition (FSC) and the Performer Availability Screening Services (PASS) announced today that all first-generation partners of the the performer who tested positive last week have been completed. There have been no further positive HIV tests within the performer pool. Production can resume on December 13.

The last at-risk interaction between the performer who tested positive and another performer occurred three weeks ago, on November 21. The testing window for the RNA-Aptima HIV test is 7-10 days. PASS doctors have since tested and retested that performer’s first generation contacts in the performer pool, on-set and off. None generated a positive test for HIV.

As previously announced, all performers must have retested in the PASS system on or after December 5  in order to be cleared to return to work. December 5 is fourteen days after the last at-risk interaction between the positive performer and any member of the performer pool, and beyond the 7-10 day window for the RNA-Aptima HIV test.

“While we understand that a moratorium is difficult for both performers and producers, it’s important that we’re cautious when dealing with HIV,” said Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition. “For nearly a decade, the combination of moratoriums and testing have been successful at preventing HIV transmission in the adult workplace. However, we must be always vigilant, and work to improve that record.”

The current moratorium was called on December 6, after an adult film performer came up HIV positive during a routine screening. Production was immediately halted while “first generation” contacts (those who had contact with the positive performer that could potentially transmit the virus) were tested. Adult performers are tested every fourteen days for a slate of STIs, including HIV.

Moratoriums are one of the most effective tools we have to protect adult performers, and allow us to stop HIV at the industry gates. We thank the performers and producers for observing the moratorium, and the performer who worked so closely with PASS to identify at-risk partners.

More on adult testing protocols and information on how moratoriums are determined can be found at FreeSpeechCoalition.com


Performer Testing Update #2

December 10, 2013

We spoke with the PASS testing facility doctors this morning, and want to issue an update on the current moratorium and testings.

Currently, all people who have had at-risk contact with the positive performer have been retested with the RNA Aptima test. At this point, we are awaiting one final test result from a performer who went to a personal physician whose testing system does not have as swift a turnaround time as industry clinics. If the results of that final are clear, we will establish a date to lift the moratorium. Until then, it remains in place.

A moratorium is only lifted after it is clear there is no threat of transmission.  Only after a genealogy of the virus is established, and all sexual partners have been tested, do the FSC and PASS receive clearance to allow performers to resume shooting.

If the final test comes back negative, FSC and PASS will set two dates: a date on which production can resume, and the date after which performers must show a negative test in order to be able to work. While we can not yet offer the former, we can announce the later: all performers must have a test dated December 5, 2013 or after in order to be cleared to work.

The HIV RNA Aptima test used by PASS has a 7-10 day window, meaning that it can identify HIV within 7-10 days of transmission. We wait at least 14 days after any possible exposure before lifting the moratorium for added accuracy, and to make sure that nothing was missed. The December 5 date is two weeks after the performer’s last at-risk contact with a member of the performer pool, on November 21.

The HIV RNA Aptima test is the most accurate test available. Because of its specificity and sensitivity a false positive (where a performer tests positive for HIV, but does not actually have it) will occur from time to time.  We have never encountered a false negative.

We only lift the moratorium if there is no medical reason for it to be extended. While most studios stockpile films and can weather a longer moratorium, individual performers often have to contend with a direct loss of income once shooting stops. We know this has been a difficult time for performers, both emotionally and financially. But we will lift the moratorium only when PASS doctors, using protocols outlined above, determine a safe date for production to resume.

We expect to have the results of that final test in the next few days. We will let you know as soon as we hear the results.


What You Know About The Porn Moratorium is All Wrong

December 9, 2013

By Diane Duke

On Friday, one of the testing facilities that serve the adult industry alerted us to a positive HIV test by an adult film performer. While we don’t yet know if the performer acquired the virus in his or her personal life, or while working in adult film, we’ve called a moratorium and immediately halted all production. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of misinformation in the media, and some truly reprehensible behavior on social media over the past few days, and felt it was necessary to explain how a moratorium works, and call for compassion for the positive performer.

A moratorium is a preventative measure used to protect adult performers. Over the past year, we’ve called two other moratoriums when performers who wished to work tested positive for HIV. In each case, the virus was acquired offset and was prevented from entering the performer pool by our testing system (known as PASS). Like a ringing car alarm, a moratorium is a sign of a working system, not a broken one. Adult performers — like all of us — have personal lives. We cannot control, and should not look to control, people’s private lives. What we can do is make sure that HIV is stopped at the gate by testing protocols.

Once a moratorium is called, all production stops so the genealogy of the virus can be traced. The performer who tested positive is interviewed. All sexual partners — on-screen or off — who fall within the transmission window are contacted and tested. This allows doctors to trace the transmission history of the virus: how it was acquired, if any other performers were exposed, and if there is any further threat to the performer pool. What doctors don’t disclose is the performer’s identity.

Sadly, almost immediately after the moratorium was called, members of the media began searching for the positive performer’s name, in what can be described as a witch hunt. This weekend, on social media and on blogs, a man was ‘outted’ as the positive performer. This is disgraceful.

First, we don’t know if the named performer was the source of the positive test or not. HIPPA regulations rightly prevent the testing clinic from disclosing a patient’s identity to anyone, even the Free Speech Coalition, unless the performer allows it. And we shouldn’t need to know a name. We only need to know if people are at risk. Everything else about the performer’s health should be between the performer, that performer’s partners, and a doctor.

HIV is a virus, not a moral issue. Yet both blogs and mainstream media unwittingly rushed to blame the victim. By assuming that adult film work is responsible for the virus, the mainstream media essentially resorts to slut-shaming. On the blogosphere and social media, it can be even worse — unfounded assumptions about escort work, or drug use, or “cross-over” sex (that is, sex with men or transgender performers) are the most common scapegoat. At a time when we most need to support someone in need, we rush to find a villain. I understand that at a difficult time like this, everyone wants to find an explanation. But in doing so, we must respect the performer’s privacy, and restrain ourselves from moralizing over a medical issue.

Whoever the performer is, we need to be there to support them — not shame or attack them. No matter how the virus was acquired, the performer is one of our own. If the performer does choose to speak publicly, the industry needs to rally behind him or her — perhaps provide interim support or help find work elsewhere in the business. An adult performer who tests positive for HIV faces not only a life-changing diagnosis, but the loss of his or her livelihood. If we truly care about performers, we need to do so not only when they are on a box cover, but also when they are at their most vulnerable.

Any positive test rightly spurs discussions as to how to make the industry safer for the performers. (Currently, every fourteen days, a performer must be tested for a full slate of STIs, including HIV, in order to be cleared to work in adult film.)  We can have honest disagreements as to how to best do this. I only ask that these discussions involve the performers themselves, rather than politicians and pundits who sometimes claim to speak for them. We have a vital, intelligent, engaged performer base with strong opinions about their own health and sexuality. We — the media, the industry, the doctors — need to listen to them, and accord them the respect they deserve.

Over the next few days, we’ll learn more about the current positive test. If the virus was prevented from entering the performer pool, retests will begin and the industry will slowly return to work. (Anyone who wants to understand the protocols by which this is determined is encouraged to visit our site.

I only hope that the discussions that come are substantive, not sanctimonious — and that everyone remembers that we’re dealing not with a cautionary tale or a talking point, but a real person who is struggling, and needs our compassion and support now more than ever. Thank you.


An FAQ about STIs, Testing and Moratoriums

December 8, 2013

200px-Trademark_License_FAQ.svgWe’ve noticed that there is a lot of confusion, both in the media and within the industry about how the decision to call a moratorium is made, how the dates are determined and what protocols are in place to protect adult performers.

HIV is a serious issue, and its important that we deal in facts, not fear or rumor, so we’ve prepared an FAQ to help people understand the process.

Are Adult Performers Tested for HIV?
Yes. Any performer who wants to work in the adult industry must test clear of STIs, including HIV, within fourteen days of their shoot date. Performers who work regularly generally test every two weeks at PASS-certified testing clinics.

What is the PASS system?
The PASS system is a descendant of AIM (Adult Industry Medical), a healthcare foundation created by a performer with the support of FSC to help protect against STIs. Under the PASS system, producers and directors check to confirm that the performer is cleared to perform in the PASS database within the past fourteen days. If a performer does not have a recent test, or shows any irregularity, he or she will not be cleared to perform.

What happens if a performer tests positive for HIV?
If an active performer tests positive for HIV, a moratorium is immediately called and the industry immediately halts all production.

How are moratoriums called?
The doctor at the PASS facility that conducted the test checks to see if that performer has worked on adult film since 2 weeks prior to his or her last negative test. If he or she has, the doctor alerts the Free Speech Coalition, and the Free Speech Coalition calls an industry-wide moratorium. Production is halted while everyone can be retested to make sure no performers are exposed to the virus.

What happens during a moratorium?
During a moratorium, film production stops while doctors work to determine if any one else was exposed, and to establish a genealogy of the virus.

All performers who have worked with or had sexual contact with the positive performer prior to performer’s last negative HIV test are tested and retested. In some cases, third generation partners may be tested as well. The goal is to immediately figure out if anyone else was exposed to the virus and to stop any potential on-set transmissions.

The HIV Positive performer is interviewed to determine the timeline and 1st generation partners. If the performer had sexual contact with other performers off-set, the PASS doctors and FSC will work to make sure those people are informed and tested as well as any other individuals with which the performer had sexual contact.

How is the decision made to lift the moratorium?
A moratorium is only lifted after it is clear there is no threat of transmission.

Only after a genealogy of the virus is established, and all sexual partners have been tested, do the FSC and PASS discuss whether it is safe for performers to resume shooting.

If the FSC and PASS determine that it is safe to lift the moratorium, they set a date on which production can resume. All performers must then retest in order to be cleared for work. The retests must happen no less than 14 days after the date the positive performer received his/her positive results or the date of the positive performer’s last sexual encounter with a performer.

The HIV RNA Aptima test used by PASS has a 7-10 day window, meaning that it can identify HIV within 7-10 days of transmission. However, we wait at least 14 days after any possible exposure before lifting the moratorium for added accuracy, and to make sure that nothing was missed.

Why not wait longer?
In some cases, we do. If there are any irregularities, or if we suspect that there may be any extant threat to the performer pool, we hold the moratorium. We only lift the moratorium if there is no medical reason for it to be extended. We try to balance performer safety with the performer’s desire to work. While most studios stockpile films and can weather a longer moratorium, individual performers often have to contend with a direct loss of income once shooting stops.

How accurate are the tests?
The HIV RNA Aptima test is the most accurate test available. Because of its specificity and sensitivity a false positive (where a performer tests positive for HIV, but does not actually have it) will occur from time to time. We have never encountered a false negative and understand the incidents of false negatives to be exceedingly rare.

What else do you test for before HIV?
PASS has an extremely rigorous testing protocol designed to reduce the risk of STIs

Performers test every 14 days for:

• HIV (by “PCR RNA Aptima”)
• Syphilis (an “RPR” and Trep-Sure test)
• Hepatitis B & C.
• Chlamydia (by “ultra-sensitive DNA amplification”)
• Gonorrhea (by “ultra-sensitive DNA amplification”)
• Trichomonias

Why not just use condoms?
Unfortunately, condoms aren’t perfect. They break. In the shoots that can take several hours, they can cause abrasions known as “condom rash,” which, paradoxically, can make it easier to transmit an infection if one does break. For this and a host of other reasons, performers generally prefer to rely on the testing system over condoms. You can read more about that here.


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