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!


21 comments:

  1. Spend time working on your game, not worried about politics.

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  2. Considering that the politics mentioned here could directly affect SO, it's an important post. And unless you are a Patron of SO, you have absolutely no right to advise him/her.

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    1. >Considering that the politics mentioned here could directly affect SO

      He literally says in the damn post that it won't affect Newlife.

      Sure, he also says "This does unfortunately mean permanently shelving some plans I had for future games," but at his current rate of progress Newlife won't be done till at least the next election anyway

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    2. SO says that this will not impact Newlife.

      Newlife at the current rate will be finished in 2022 or so, just in time for the next election, assuming that there not a snap election.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. He said unknown future tory plans may affect newlife. If the trend continues, who knows. It's something to worry about.

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    5. >He literally says in the damn post that it won't affect Newlife.

      And I said it could affect SO, who mentioned that the law would interfere with other projects that were planned. Either way, don't go tell someone to not worry about politics as if you have some right to do so: ignoring politics is part of the reason that we have the current administration in the US.

      And once again, unless you're a Patron, and paying SO for the game's progress, you have no right to tell them to focus on the game, as I said.

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    6. >who mentioned that the law would interfere with other projects that were planned

      Projects that, like I said, are so far outside the scope of this discussion as to be irrelevant due to how long Newlife is taking.

      >ignoring politics is part of the reason that we have the current administration in the US.

      People not voting the way you personally believed they should != "not paying attention"

      >And once again, unless you're a Patron, and paying SO for the game's progress, you have no right to tell them to focus on the game

      I actually used to be a patron, but simply can't justify it anymore, largely because of examples like this, where SO has written more text for a political post than he's added to the game in over a month. But yes, how DARE I be irritated when the author of a project I've put literally hundreds of dollars toward shows themselves to be more interested in soapboxing than actually having anything to show for the $70k he's making yearly

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    7. So, you stopped paying because you were satisfied with the content. If you were still a patron, you'd know that the last update had a good amount of content, but you'd rather lament that someone's potential issue with a government oversight isn't your concern because it doesn't effect the content you want, for free might I add, and therefore shouldn't concern the creator of said free content.

      Regarding the current US political climate, perhaps you would understand what I meant when I posted that ignoring politics lead to the current situation when you understand how many people didn't even vote this past election.

      If you are truly upset with the lack of content and want to show your distaste, you could always not play. Especially since you aren't even willing to pay for the content you receive, and yet still complain about the content itself.

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    8. No, I stopped paying because I WASN'T satisfied with the content being added, considering the creator is being paid a salary that many full-time programmers would be envious of for a minimal output (one that has steadily slowed the higher the payout, I might add). How hard is this to understand?

      And don't throw this "you're getting stuff for free" bullshit in my face when, as I said before, I have put hundreds of dollars toward this game, about a hundred of which were in months where fuck all was added to justify it.

      >If you are truly upset with the lack of content and want to show your distaste, you could always not play.

      Great, mission accomplished - I haven't played since 0.4.4 - though I fail to see how that "shows" anything. It's not like NL collects usage data. So no, the only way to show distaste beyond pulling support is, in fact, verbally.

      >Especially since you aren't even willing to pay for the content you receive, and yet still complain about the content itself

      Since I already addressed the asinine first half of this several times now, I'll just point out that the second is wrong as well, since the core issue isn't with the content, but rather with the god-awful work ethic of the creator.

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  3. If you got struck by the law just move the game/blog abroad. Shouldn't be a problem to register a company somewhere. I guess UK's gov will be more focused on bigger players than a little text game developed by one person so I guess you shouldn't worry that much.

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    1. Pandora Blake looked into this when her spanking site was being shut down. It turns out that just registering a company overseas is not enough to provide protection from the law. She would have had to physically move to another country and make it her permanent home.

      The government or, to be more precise, ATVOD, a regulator set up by them, does have history in going after smaller sites although not text-based ones: they had a hate-on for BDSM femdom sites. Some of the sites they targetted received less traffic than this blog. ATVOD is now history but they'll be empowering another regulator for their new laws.

      Of course Newlife is currently completely safe: the Digital Economy Act defines adult content as images, video or audio - none of which are used by Newlife. I don't know if they will end up targetting text. I rather doubt it in the short-term as going after the erotic literature market might be a big vote-loser. Still, these are most certainly steps in the wrong direction and even if I'm not affected personally I have a lot of empathy for the many other devs, players and would-be developers who are.

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  4. We just might have a leader who is against internet freedom and privacy, and is looking to place bans on SO's industry. I think SO is allowed to worry about politics right now.

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  5. If you think you're going to find friends on the other side of the aisle, think again. Pornography is considered by the left to be exploitation of women, remember?

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    1. Anti-sex feminists are certainly allied with the "traditional values" types on this kind of issue, but the left as a whole has a lot who oppose them. That includes sex-positive wings of the feminist movement - let's not tar all feminists with the same brush. Some of their more prominent members are unpleasantly anti-sex but they certainly don't speak for the whole movement.

      On the left, the Liberal Democrats in particular are probably the strongest opponents of internet censorship among the major parties. Despite Tim Farron's strong religious convictions he has an outstanding record on standing up against this sort of thing. See e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/28/lib-dems-to-oppose-uk-plan-to-block-porn-sites-without-age-checks

      Labour's record is rather more mixed. Things might be changing under Corbyn though: he did speak up in favour of decriminalisation of sex work, a stance backed by Amnesty International but which resulted in condemnation by certain left-wing anti-sex groups. A quick google search didn't find anything clear one way or the other about his views on pornography, but at least their manifesto didn't promise bans.
      They might still need some poking to vote against Conservative censorship laws though - I'm hopeful that they'll oppose the Tories if enough constituents write to them and make their feelings clear on the matter.

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  6. Saddly, even if they get these laws in place, they would end up having to ban every file hosting as well as privatized file server IP's which would be more then time consuming, and wouldnt stop till they killed the law off again, it will either be a short life span, or it will continue on and cost them more money then they should spend on content censorship.

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    1. Since I cant edit, I will just put this into a reply. As a side note, privatized file servers that pay enough attention to the UK grouping, could also just change there IP or even ISP if a centralized ban is made, it just wouldnt live long, and would eventually anger more then they want of the civilian society that they rely on to actually stay standing. There in the wrong kind of government structure to keep this kind of change constent.

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    2. It certainly doesn't seem feasible for them to successfully block all adult content. As to whether this will stop them from trying remains to be seen.

      In terms of money, if previous laws under ATVOD are any indication they might aim to make the regulator self-funding by giving it the power to demand fees from websites that comply with the law in addition to fining those that don't.

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    3. Mmmm, that would be unpleasent, all you would have to rely on in that case would be the citizens getting angry enough, does look grim.

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  7. Regarding not being able to add images to the game, there may be a workaround. You can build in the ability to provide images into the game but allow the core game to work without them. You can then allow the player to load what images they want. An image package can be given out separately, as a community mod.

    From the beginning I thought it would be cool to have a background image related to the character you chose to play. I found a nice pic of a woman with long blonde hair that was perfect for my character, partly because the portait was from behind, making it a more anonymous depiction.

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