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Statement on the Appropriation Committee’s passage of California State Assembly Bill AB1576 from Diane Duke of the Free Speech Coalition

 

Today, Isadore Hall and Michael Weinstein forced a bill on adult performers despite the vociferous opposition of the performers themselves. AB1576 denies performers control of their own body, their own sexuality, and their own privacy. Over five hundred performers have bravely come out in public opposition to this bill, despite Hall’s endless shaming. For the past few month, Hall has portrayed performers as a public health hazard, using discredited studies that read like Victorian pulp novels. This isn’t about protecting performers, this is a morality crusade aimed at driving a legal, regulated business out of the state and underground.

 

Hall never approached performers to find out what they wanted — he gave them what he wanted. That’s why the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, the Transgender Law Center, the Erotic Service Providers Union, the Center for Sex and Culture and the Adult Performers Advocacy Committee and others joined the Free Speech Coalition in its opposition to a bill that strips performers of vital protections.

 

This bill will now go to the State Assembly. Make no mistake — we will fight it, and we will win. Hall’s attacks have unified the producers and performers in a way we haven’t seen since the culture wars of the 80s. We can not allow politicians to treat adult performers as disposable, to disregard very real concerns in favor of a paternalistic bill that criminalizes adult film. Hall has never been on an adult film set, he does not know how the industry works, he does not understand the concerns of adult performers — and he does not care. He has what he thinks is a political winner on his hands, and he’ll continue with it until he destroys what he claims he will protect.

 

It’s worth noting, of course, that AHF and Hall have spent millions of dollars and several years fighting HIV in adult film, despite the fact that there has not been on-set transmission of HIV on a regulated adult set in over ten years. Meanwhile, Hall’s own district has one of the highest rates of HIV mortality in the country, and does not contain one of his sponsor’s clinics. Crusading against porn stars may make for good headlines, but it makes for lousy policy. We didn’t ask for it, but we look forward to this fight.

 

 

Adult Performers, Performer Groups Announce Vehement Opposition to Condom Bill

 

AB1576  “shows a total disregard for performers' autonomy”

 

May 20, 2014 - Nearly 500 adult performers have signed a petition asking legislators to vote no on AB1576, a bill that many performers say violates their privacy, and is so restrictive that it would push a legal industry underground. For the first time, AB1576 would establish criminal penalties for not using a condom in an adult film, require producers to keep a log of a performer's sexual activities, and force performers to waive their right to medical privacy.

 

Independent groups representing adult film stars, including the Adult Performers Advocacy Committee and the Erotic Service Providers Union, have joined the 463 petitioners and the Free Speech Coalition, the adult industry trade group, to oppose AB1576. The petition will be presented in Sacramento on Wednesday at an Assembly Appropriations hearing.

 

"This is an insulting and paternalistic bill," said Lorelei Lee, a performer and one of the bill's most vocal opponents. "This shows a total disregard for performers' autonomy and threatens a vital safety infrastructure that we have spent ten years building. AB1576 squanders resources addressing a problem that doesn't exist. If the bill becomes law, it will, in fact, harm the people it claims it will protect."

 

California State Assembly Bill AB1576 is the collaboration between Michael Weinstein, the controversial head of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and Assemblymember Isadore Hall, a Baptist minister. It is the third time they have attempted to advance such a bill.

 

"Performers shouldn’t have to give up control over their bodies," said Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition. "We are a small community, and not always the most political, but outrage has come from all areas of the industry — gay, straight, trans, fetish, studio and independent — to fight against a bill that criminalizes sex between consenting adults. More performers are signing this petition every day, and we look forward to presenting it Wednesday."

 

Nina Hartley, a performer and registered nurse, called AB1576 "a solution in search of a problem," during testimony before the state Assembly in April and has been vociferous in her opposition to the bill. "There has not been a single case of HIV transmission between performers on a regulated adult film set in over ten years, and yet they treat us like a threat to public health, using shame, sexism and fear-mongering to dismiss our concerns about privacy, discomfort, rights and safety.” 

 

A delegation of performers, including Lee, will be heading to Sacramento on Tuesday to present the petition to legislators in advance of Wednesday’s hearing.

 

A PDF of the petition is available upon request.

 

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

Free 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."

 

 

FSC’s Douglas, Duke Attend the Dirty, Sexy Policy Conference

Free Speech Coalition Board Chair Jeffrey Douglas and CEO Diane Duke will attend and speak at the Sexy, Dirty Policy Conference, held by the Carsey-Wolfe Center at University of California, Santa Barbara, on Feb 20 – 21.

The conference will bring together prominent scholars, attorneys, activists, regulators, and journalists to analyze and discuss current challenges to media policy. Panelists will tackle such topics as content regulation of obscenity and indecency; structural regulation of broadband technologies; and the broader stakes that policy critics share.

Keynote speakers include former Federal Communications Commissioner Nicholas Johnson, who will give a keynote speech on Thursday. Des Freedman, a professor of media and communication studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, will speak on Friday.

Professors Constance Penley and Karen Petruska, as well as Associate Professor Jennifer Holt organized the conference.

Conference sponsors include the Department of Communication, the Department of Film and Media Studies, the Department of Feminist Studies, the Rick Rosen Television Studies Fund, the Center for Information Technology and Society, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center and the College of Letters and Science.

 

Censorship in the UK

 

February 14, 2014

Regulators 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 anticensorship 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 anticensorship 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.

 

 
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