European mobile phone firms must act to ensure that adult content reaches only adults, a research company warns. Mobile operators face a backlash over adult content if they are unable to balance lucrative revenues with legitimate parental anxieties, according to a report from research company Current Analysis. The warning comes as visual advances in mobile handset technology have led to the widespread introduction of mobile devices capable of taking pictures, videos and watching short video clips and films.
"There could be uproar in Ireland when 3G arrives and hardcore pornography is available over 3G phones," report author Bena Roberts, Current Analysis European wireless services analyst, told ElectricNews.Net. Yet the "Adult Content: Social Responsibility vs. Revenue Gain" advisory document states that there is "little that can be really achieved" to control adult content on mobile handsets.
The report follows the news that 3G mobile phones sold in Ireland are to be registered to their owners in an effort to safeguard children from inappropriate content. A three-pronged initiative aimed at ensuring the secure and responsible use of mobile services was also launched by the Irish Cellular Industry Association (ICIA) and mobile operators O2, Meteor and Vodafone in early June. An industry code of practice, a parental guide to mobile phone services and a mobile content filtering trial were unveiled as part of the initiative.
For mobile operators, social responsibility comes from "having to show that they care" in order to avoid lawsuits, said Roberts. "The UK's code of practice is an attempt, but in reality it serves as a security blanket," she said.
Mobile operators such as O2 UK, Orange UK, T-Mobile Germany, Telefonica Moviles in Spain and Vodafone Portugal all currently offer adult content services, and Italian operator Wind is deriving up to 80 per cent of data revenues from its sex channel, dating and flirt SMS services, notes the report. "Even if Irish operators are not directly offering services, there is already access to adult content in Ireland over mobile phones via third party providers," Roberts said.
The only way to stem anxiety about adult content is to tackle the issue head on and offer consumers clear guidelines so that they can find what they want, if they want it - but can never come across such services accidentally, states the report.
The report concludes mobile operators must educate parents, let users decide for themselves which content they feel is appropriate and, in the UK, implement the code of practice immediately. Operators should also consider banning the use of adult content services for pre-paid users, using child-centric mobile phones or follow the German option of having mobile SIM cards that do not support adult content.