Playboy fined £100,000 for failing to protect children

16 January 2013

Ofcom has today fined Playboy £100,000 for failing to protect children from potentially harmful pornographic material.

Two websites owned by Playboy (Playboy TV and Demand Adult) allowed users to access hardcore videos and images without having acceptable controls in place to check that users were aged 18 or over.

Unlike other pornographic websites, these websites are regulated by Ofcom and its concurrent regulator, the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD). This is because they provide access to videos in a similar way to adult services broadcast on television - and fall within UK jurisdiction1.

Ofcom concluded that Playboy's failure to protect children from potentially accessing these sites was serious, repeated and reckless.

Inadequate protection

There are a number of controls that websites can use to verify the age of users. This includes asking for credit card details before any adult content is made accessible. Credit cards, unlike debit cards, are not available to under 18s.  Playboy TV and Demand Adult had breached UK rules2 by having no effective systems in place to protect under 18s from unsuitable free and paid-for content.

Demand Adult

The homepage of Demand Adult displayed hardcore pornographic material that could be viewed by clicking on a button labelled "Enter I am over 18". In order to access additional paid for content, users could pay using a debit card. Neither of these controls constitutes an effective age verification system.

Playboy TV

Playboy TV also required users to self certify their age before accessing the main site; however unlike Demand Adult, the material on the homepage showed sexual activity without explicit detail. In order to access the website's hardcore pornographic material users could register using a debit card, which is not an effective age verification system.

Financial penalty

Due to the serious nature of these breaches, the following financial penalties have been imposed on Playboy:

  • Demand Adult: £65,000
  • Playboy TV: £35,000

Strictly Broadband

These fines follow Ofcom's decision in December 2012 to fine the online adult content website, Strictly Broadband, £60,000 for failing to have effective controls in place to verify that users of the site were aged 18 or over.

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. Ofcom has general duties in relation to the regulation of those who provide on demand programmes via the internet, known as On Demand Programme Service (ODPS) providers.  Ofcom works in conjunction with two co-regulators, the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) as the co-regulator for editorial content, and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as the co-regulator for advertising content.
  2. Rule 11 of the Authority for Television On Demand (ATVOD) rules states: "If an on-demand programme service contains material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen, the material must be made available in a manner which secures that such persons will not normally see or hear it."
  3. Ofcom has designated ATVOD also as the appropriate regulatory authority to carry out certain aspects of its functions in relation to the provision of ODPS.
  4. Sanctions Decisions: ODPS are not subject to Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code but service providers are required to comply with some content, advertising and sponsorship rules set by the European Union.  These are laid out in ATVOD Rules & Guidance. If ATVOD find that an ODPS has breached its Rules, it can refer the matter to Ofcom for consideration of a sanction.  Sanctions referrals are made according to Ofcom’s current procedures: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/broadcast/tv-ops/vod/sanctions-procedures.pdf
  5. All financial penalties imposed by Ofcom are held in our account with Office of HM Paymaster General (OPG) for the benefit of the Exchequer.