Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Tomorrow's Election

Hi all,

There's a general election here in the UK tomorrow (Thursday 8th). For some time now polls have indicated a win for the Conservatives under Theresa May, but recently the Labour party are gaining ground and it's now looking possible that the Tories might fail to get a majority.

The Conservatives have for some time now been fighting against internet pornography. This appears to be part of a wider attempt to control how people use the internet with several laws coming in over the last few years and more planned for the future.

The best-known of these laws is the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 aka the "Snooper's Charter", but as an adult game developer, the one that's most concerning is the Digital Economy Act - one I posted about before the last election.
In particular, part 3 of this law involves extensive regulation of websites that provide adult content. No longer will it be enough for a site to rely on an "Are you over 18" page. Instead, they will now have to *prove* that their visitors are over 18 before showing them any adult content, including free samples. This means that to comply with the law they'll need all their visitors to provide personal information, most likely credit-card details, before getting access to any content whatsoever.

It's taken the tories several years to implement it, but it became law on the 28th April this year. To my knowledge actual regulation and site shutdowns haven't yet begun, but it surely won't be long before that kicks in.

While this is bad enough, the Conservatives are planning more. The Conservative manifesto promises more control of the internet, dressed up as usual as "protecting children". They outright state that "we will be the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal
data and the internet" and define pornography as a "source of harm" that they plan to bring in new protections against ("We will put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm").

We're currently standing at a crossroads. A tory win would probably have dramatic negative consequences for UK-based adult content creators and for the ability of UK people to access adult content online.

I'd like to urge any of you who are able to vote in the UK elections tomorrow to do so. Of course there are many things to consider when voting beyond preventing government control of the internet, but if you value being able to access adult content online then I encourage you to vote in a way that will prevent a Conservative victory.

I had thought of doing lots of research into the other parties and ranking them on their support for free expression, but given our first-past-the-post electoral system, that seems fairly pointless.
Realistically, if you're in a marginal seat and the Conservatives are one of the top two parties then the strongest non-tory party will be the best one to vote for if you want to keep the Conservatives out of power. That'll most often be Labour, but in some cases it might be the LibDems, the Greens, the SNP or one of the other regional parties.

To find out about your constituency, check the parliament site, select the Constituency Finder, enter your postcode and then check the 2015 results to see which are the strongest parties.


Here's a quick FAQ, mostly based on things people brought up before the 2015 election:

Q: How will this affect Newlife?

A: The Digital Economy Act will not affect Newlife: it defines pornography as being images, video or sound. Newlife has none of these so will not be affected. This does unfortunately mean permanently shelving some plans I had for future games that would have had images.

Financially this might benefit me as lots of Brits might not want to use adult content they have to provide personal information to see and come to text sites like mine instead. However, I'm strongly opposed to these laws even if they have a chance of working in my favour - they are just plan wrong, and I wouldn't want to profit from other people's suffering.

Of course we don't know what future laws might come in - the Conservatives haven't provided details about how they plan to restrict online pornography. It's possible that their plans might affect Newlife. It's also possible that sites I rely on like Blogger or Patreon might be affected by crackdowns on pornography and end up banning all adult content, even text-only stuff.

Q: I don't like our electoral system. Wouldn't not voting be a way of showing my lack of faith in the goverment?

A: No. If you don't vote then the message you're sending is that you do not matter. Most people who don't vote aren't doing so as a protest - they just don't care enough about who wins. If you don't vote then the government will just assume you're fine with whoever ends up winning.

Q: Won't the porn lobby block these laws?

A: To my knowledge, there is no porn lobby. The porn industry isn't powerful enough to meaningfully affect government policy, especially in the UK where it's fairly small. Besides, some of the big players support porn crackdowns because the mega-corporations have the resources to comply with even very restrictive laws while the mass of niche sites that make up a major part of their competition would struggle.

Q: The people won't stand for this!

A: You are the People! If you, as someone who cares enough about adult content to have read this entire blog post, don't care enough to vote then there's no chance that there'll be some mass protest. Besides, the Conservatives promised porn crackdowns before the 2015 election and they won that one. That victory was probably because younger voters who are more likely to enjoy adult content online are also less likely to vote. Let's change that for this election!

Q: The big tech companies won't stand for it!

A: I'd be surprised if they didn't. Major tech companies are often rather anti-sex. A few years back Google tried to ban adult blogs on Blogger, only to back down after massive outcries. A government forcing the issue could be the excuse they need to make their sites more "family-friendly" without taking the blame. Google and other big tech companies provide a lot of great services, but we can't rely on them to fight our political battles for us.

Q: It'll never happen.

A: People said that in 2015, and the Digital Economy Act has now come into law.

Q: What about Brexit?

A: That's a bit of a different issue. The right-wing press has tried to push the idea that only the Tories will go through with brexit, but I'd take that with a massive pinch of salt. Labour will certainly implement brexit. The LibDems are the party of Remain, but they aren't likely to be a major power in the next government. Overall, if you're a Remain supporter then it makes sense to oppose the Tories. If you're a Brexiter then you can also vote against them without compromising your beliefs on Brexit.

Q: What about non-UK sites?

A: The UK government has plans for them too, but they can't force them to comply with UK law. Likely they'll either need to follow the law or they'll get blocked at ISP-level for UK consumers.

Q: Can't people use VPNs or TOR to bypass restrictions?

A: Probably, but adult creators don't have that option - we need to comply with the law. Besides, Theresa May's plans for further internet regulation might include measures against TOR and/or VPNS.

Q: That's a stupid law. It'll never work.

A: I agree. However, just because it's a stupid law doesn't mean it can't be implemented and doesn't mean it can't cause a lot of hardship for people: just look at Prohibition in the US or, if I may be a little more controversial, the "war on drugs".

Q: I'm not British. Will this affect me?

A: Difficult to say. Obviously you might lose access to content made by British people if their sites get shut down. Some struggling adult sites might also fail due to the loss of income from Brits although they'd need to be on the borderline for that to happen: Brits only make up around 7% of visitors to this blog.
There might also be knock-on effects if tech companies use it as an opportunity to become more family-friendly or if other governments try to follow in the UK's lead - Protecting Children like the UK sounds a lot better as an election pledge than Censoring the Internet like China.

Q: Is there anything I can do other than voting?

A: Yes! Encourage any non-voting friends & family to go and vote as well. You could also spread the word online, but please only do so in a way that won't annoy or upset people - don't go linking to my adult blog on Mumsnet for example!


Thanks for reading this post. Progress is going fine on the next release - I haven't been able to get online for the last week and a bit, but I've still been developing the game. While adding the 'from-behind' makeout position I've also taken the opportunity to make some much-needed improvements to certain less-developed makeout actions and I hope you'll all find them to be very worthwhile. Have a good week, and let's hope for a positive outcome tomorrow!