The UK’s ‘porn block’ has been delayed (again)

By Alma Fabiani

Apr 4, 2019

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Watching porn online will never be the same, at least in the U.K. Now known as ‘the porn block’, the age-verification law for commercial porn sites was passed as part of the 2017 Digital Economy Act and was initially expected to be in place by April 2018. But because of its controversial nature, many delays stopped it from being put into action. Although a precise date hasn’t been set out just yet, the Minister for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Margot James, told MPs, “We expect it to be in force by Easter of next year”.

While we wait for a commencement date, there is a necessity to question what this ‘block’ law will actually change and weigh the pros and cons. The problem not only lies in the fact that it might change porn and the way it is perceived—because let’s be honest, a lot has to change in the porn industry—but also in what it means about our freedom and our right to privacy. Imagine how many teenagers would give up on expanding their sexual journey through PornHub’s best picks if they had to give out their phone number and email address first, let alone their parents’ credit card details.

This new age-check requirement will apply to any website or online platform that provides pornography. Businesses that refuse to comply will be fined up to £250,000 and regulators will be able to block porn websites if they fail to show that they are denying access to under 18s. While the main idea behind this law makes perfect sense—to protect minors from being exposed to porn at a too young age—many other aspects and repercussions can be criticised.

The practical aspects of the changes that it would bring are the first and most obvious inconveniences. Here are a few ways users will be able to prove their age. The first option, called AgeID, will direct users to a non-pornographic page, where they will be asked to provide personal data—credit card details, phone numbers, and emails—to prove their age.

The second option will expect that users buy age-verification cards that are only valid for 24 hours. These cards will contain a code that will be entered on the page to prove they are over 18. They could cost up to £8 and a trip to your local off license.

Although the two options sound tedious, it should be said that any young child having access to pornographic content is concerning. A study commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), shows that 53 percent of 11-16-year-olds surveyed have seen sexually explicit content online. With that in mind, it is understandable that people fear children are becoming more and more desensitised to certain things. What happened to parental controls and privacy settings?

Now when looked at from another angle, this law reveals more problems. No matter how much its critics chose to deny it, pornography has a big influence on us as a society. Yes, it reflects misogynistic views, an unrealistic depiction of bodies, stereotypic ideas and so much more. But it also can influence our vision of gender, intimacy and beauty in good ways.

With more and more independent pornographic film producers coming onto the scene, the porn industry is slowly starting to show a more artistic and realistic side. More focus is now put on the diversity of sex and queer, trans, non-Western people. As flawed as pornography can be, it can be used to communicate comprehensive and open-minded sex education, while today’s modern sex education has been restricted in many ways and in many countries.

And then there is the issue of privacy that this law poses. No one wants to give out that kind of private information when landing on a porn website. The company MindGeek—which owns PornHub, YouPorn and others—is already renowned for its multiple data breaches (seven since 2012). This just shows how risky it could be to put your information out there when trying to watch explicit content—especially when MindGeek will be the company operating AgeID.

This law will help the corporate interests of the biggest adult entertainment companies while putting users’ personal information at risk. U.K.’s ‘porn block’ could mean data collection, leaks, and blackmail. Are you willing to take this risk just for a bit of ‘adult content’? As for protecting underaged viewers, if they don’t know how to change their IP address already, they’ll always be able to look at explicit content on social media. In other words, the ‘porn block’ is solving a problem by creating many more—because top-down restrictions aren’t always the right solution.

The UK’s ‘porn block’ has been delayed (again)


By Alma Fabiani

Apr 4, 2019

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Slutbot, the chatbot that helps you practise your sexting skills

By Alma Fabiani

May 30, 2019

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You’ve probably sexted before, possibly with your partner or with your most recent match. It can be a fun, stress-free experience for some, but for others who’ve never done it before, it can also be intimidating and beginners can miss out on the opportunity of becoming a master of dirty talk. That’s where Slutbot comes in.

Launched by the creators of Juicebox, a sex and relationship coaching app, Slutbot is a free service developed by sex educators and erotic fiction writers—sexting pros basically. At the moment, texting Slutbot is only free in the U.S. and Canada, while the rest of the world can sext with it for the cost of your standard messaging rates. If you feel like trying it, you can text ‘slutbot’ to (+1) 415-650-0395.

Slutbot starts by asking your age, gender, and the gender of the person you’d like to practise sexting with. The chatbot offers different types of pairings like female user to male bot, female user to female bot, male user to female bot and so on. After picking a pairing that suits your needs, you’ll have to choose between two types of sexting: one softer, called ‘slow & gentle’, and another called ‘hot & sexy’, which, much like its title, is more forward.

When I decided to try it, Slutbot was considerate enough to choose a safe word, in case things got too hot too soon—the bot picked ‘pineapple’ for some reason. The conversation started quite slowly, with sentences like, “I’ve been thinking about you today. Last night was really hot”, nothing too crazy considering I picked the ‘hot & sexy’ option. Slutbot quickly killed the mood by using texting abbreviations like ‘O.M.G.’ and the ‘100’ emoji three times in a row, making me wonder if I was texting a bot or a 15-year-old. The experience as a whole wasn’t that bad, and for a sexting beginner, the upsides that could come from a few conversations with Slutbot are clear, if you can ignore the over-the-top use of emojis and the absence of any sense of humour.

Talking to the New York Times, Founder and CEO of Juicebox Brianna Rader said, “People think sex and dating is supposed to be easy and innate, but it’s not. It’s absolutely a life skill just like all other life skills, but unfortunately we’re never formally taught these things.” A study conducted by McAfee in the U.S. showed that 49 percent of all smartphone users sext and of those, 70 percent are between 18 and 24 years old, so it only makes sense that someone came up with a sexting ‘starter pack’ to help onboard this new generation of sexters. Although Slutbot is exactly what it says on the tin—a slutty bot—it should be seen as a first step towards opening up new horizons for your sex life (that is, if you feel like you need a little push).

Slutbot tackles important issues, like consent and communicating desires, by always ending a text asking users if they’re enjoying this conversation or want to try something new. By practising your sexting skills with Slutbot without dreading the possibility of being ghosted, you could eventually feel confident enough to try it out with someone real. Ghosting is a problem that goes hand-in-hand with technology, especially texting—not only with sexting. That’s where another app called Mei comes in, your best chance at texting perfectly, thus avoiding any chance of being ghosted. Once you’ve downloaded Mei, the app includes an AI assistant that gives you real-time comments on your texting skills as you chat with friends, family, and partners.

Let’s say you’ve been talking with your new crush for a few days, but you feel like the conversation is not going as smoothly anymore. In your text conversation, Mei will pop up at the top left corner to comment on your way of texting, advising you on which tone you should try out and why. The app’s website says, “We hope to be a new messaging option that users can be excited about”. Although the concept sounds great on paper (we all ask someone close for texting advice from time to time) the idea that people could one day rely on extra help to text from AI should be a forewarning of how our society is beginning to lean perhaps too heavily on technology (especially when it comes to social interactions).

By now we all know that technological innovations have both positive and negative impacts on our social interactions. So next time you feel like sexting for the first time, or you don’t want to receive an unsolicited dick pic, you’ll know Slutbot is always here for you. Same goes with texting your mum after having a bad argument with her, Mei will be there to help you formulate that perfect text. Let’s just try to avoid being dependent on these apps—preferably without throwing away our phones.

Slutbot, the chatbot that helps you practise your sexting skills


By Alma Fabiani

May 30, 2019

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