It’s time to hold the porn industry to account, and CEASE is willing to pursue legal action to get it done.

Today sees the launch of our Crowdfunder threatening legal action against the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for failing to take action or even investigate the misuse of children’s personal data by pornography sites. As our CEO Vanessa Morse states on our Crowdfunder page:

“We believe that pornography websites use personal data to target advertising and other harmful pornographic content to their users – regardless of whether they are an adult or a child – to make money. Not only is this unlawful, but it’s also exploitative. The ICO must investigate this data misuse urgently”

Porn in the digital age functions as an online marketplace, where users’ preferences and viewing habits are tracked and traced throughout their use of each respective website.

For those unfamiliar with how the porn industry operates, this may seem like a somewhat niche basis for a legal complaint, but in what is an enormously unregulated industry, it is anything but. Porn in the digital age functions as an online marketplace, where users’ preferences and viewing habits are tracked and traced throughout their use of each respective website.  

What this means in practice is that as a user accesses each respective website – whether this is a pay-to-access site such as OnlyFans, or a free-access tube-style site such as Pornhub – their data is tracked and processed by the site for a variety of reasons, one of which is to target users with further content.

As numerous recent reports and investigations have found, even websites with slick public relations teams behind them such as OnlyFans – who maintain everything is above board – are engaged in the processing of children’s data. So, it is no longer “only” adults who are on the receiving end of content-targeting, but now children are being drawn into the exploitative and abusive industry.

Research demonstrates why it is imperative that children are protected from accessing porn. For example, porn consumers are more likely to express attitudes in support of gender-based violence and to victimise women; porn use causes diverse physical and mental health problems, to which children are especially vulnerable; porn use increases the chances of high level distraction and risk of loneliness, depression and anxiety; it also increases the level of social maladjustment amongst children; and its use is linked to a huge increase in peer-on-peer sexual abuse. Further, sexual violence and abuse is rampant in porn – one in eight video titles described sexual violence in a 2021 study, and a 2010 study entitled ‘Aggression and Sexual Behaviour in Best-Selling Pornography Videos: A Content Analysis Update’ found that:

“Of the 304 scenes analysed, 88.2% contained physical aggression, principally spanking, gagging, and slapping, while 48.7% of scenes contained verbal aggression, primarily name-calling. Perpetrators of aggression were usually male, whereas targets of aggression were overwhelmingly female”.

What is clear is that children are being actively targeted by corporations who profit from exploitative, illegal, and violent content. The ICO have the power to investigate porn websites when they do this, yet by their own admission, they have failed.

We believe that the ICO – and by extension the porn sites involved in such illicit activity – should be held to account. Our Crowdfunder will allow us to engage in the preliminary stages of litigation, and our lawyers have already sent a Pre-Action letter to the ICO outlining why we believe we have an strong case. Our aim is for this not to go to Court at all, but rather, for the ICO to take action immediately to stop porn sites from targeting children with hardcore content ­­­– action they should have taken a long time ago.

It’s time we #ProtectKidsFromPorn, and hold this industry to account once and for all.