Extreme porn now illegal north of the border

Scotland falls into line


If you thought you could hide your extreme porn stash in a secluded location north of the border – think again. For this week, the Scottish Parliament finally fell into line with its English counterpart south of the border, passing laws - included within the Criminal Justice Bill - making it a criminal offence to possess images that were extreme and pornographic in nature.

Like the English law on this topic, passed in May 2008, the Scottish law will focus on images that are realistic, pornographic and of an extreme nature.

In addition, however, the Scottish law adds an extra clause, bringing within this Bill images which are believed to depict "rape or other non-consensual penetrative sexual activity".

Quite how useful this clause may turn out remains to be seen. The Register has analysed nearly 50 cases that have been brought in the rest of the UK since the Westminster law went live. Our analysis reveals that in the vast majority of cases, the extreme porn in question featured bestial imagery ("human-on-animal" action) and not "human-on-human" action of the sort that the law’s proponents claimed it was designed to act against.

We believe that there are two reasons for the low incidence of such cases. First, in the days after the law went live, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) advised English police forces not to police this law pro-actively, so the majority of convictions have been in association with other offences: they have been "add-on" charges. Second, while it is relatively easy to identify bestial images, the threshold for identifying human-human extreme porn is far more difficult, and hard-pressed police and prosecution may have better things to do with their time.

Few cases have been defended, but where they have the end result has been embarrassing for the authorities.

According to Becky Dwyer, Convenor for Consenting Adult Action Network (CAAN) Scotland, the fact that such a large number of cases have now been prosecuted in England would have been good grounds for the Scottish Parliament to wait a little longer.

As far as Becky is concerned, this is not a neutral law. She told us: "The law does not appear to be doing what it is meant to do – but the negative side-effects are themselves extreme, with bdsm websites encouraging practitioners towards safer play being taken down over the last year and a half.

"It may not be too much of an exaggeration to say that this law has made the world a far less safe, more dangerous place."

This call for a pause was echoed by Patrick Harvie MSP, one of the few Scottish politicians to publicly speak out against the extreme porn clauses. Intervening toward the end of yesterday’s parliamentary debate, he said: "[Cabinet Secretary Kenny MacAskill] will be aware that the measure [on extreme pornography] that exists in England and Wales is having no effect in reducing the production of genuinely violent or abusive images, but is being used just as a top-up charge in a small number of cases in which the most serious offence is rape or sexual assault, which attract a higher sentence.

"If we end up in a similar situation with the charge being used in a similar way in Scotland, as a mere top-up, will we not have to look again at whether it serves any purpose?"

Responding for the government, MacAskill indicated that he would be happy to discuss that issue after the debate. However, the fact that he then appeared to suggest that the legislation would "protect our children from sexual perverts", has been described by Harvie as "unhelpful".

Nonetheless, Harvie told us that he would take up the opportunity to discuss the extreme porn provisions with MacAskill, looking particularly at how the equivalent provisions are used south of the border. He concluded: "It would serve no purpose whatever if we were simply to reproduce a situation in Scotland which seems to be failing elsewhere."

Ironically, as the remainder of the UK now falls into line, the last censorship-free zone in the British Isles may be the Isle of Man - or even the Channel Isles - both areas that have in the past been lambasted on mainland Britain for their quaint approach to law-making. ®


Other stories you might like

  • Tencent admits to poisoned QR code attack on QQ chat platform
    Could it be Beijing was right about games being bad for China?

    Chinese web giant Tencent has admitted to a significant account hijack attack on its QQ.com messaging and social media platform.

    In a post to rival social media platform Sina Weibo – a rough analog of Twitter – Tencent apologized for the incident.

    The problem manifested on Sunday night and saw an unnamed number of QQ users complain their credentials no longer allowed them access to their accounts. Tencent has characterized that issue as representing "stolen" accounts.

    Continue reading
  • Carnival Cruises torpedoed by US states, agrees to pay $6m after waves of cyberattacks
    Now those are some phishing boats

    Carnival Cruise Lines will cough up more than $6 million to end two separate lawsuits filed by 46 states in the US after sensitive, personal information on customers and employees was accessed in a string of cyberattacks.

    A couple of years ago, as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold, the Miami-based biz revealed intruders had not only encrypted some of its data but also downloaded a collection of names and addresses; Social Security info, driver's license, and passport numbers; and health and payment information of thousands of people in almost every American state.

    It all started to go wrong more than a year prior, as the cruise line became aware of suspicious activity in May 2019. This apparently wasn't disclosed until 10 months later, in March 2020.

    Continue reading
  • India extends deadline for compliance with infosec logging rules by 90 days
    Helpfully announced extension on deadline day

    India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the local Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) have extended the deadline for compliance with the Cyber Security Directions introduced on April 28, which were due to take effect yesterday.

    The Directions require verbose logging of users' activities on VPNs and clouds, reporting of infosec incidents within six hours of detection - even for trivial things like unusual port scanning - exclusive use of Indian network time protocol servers, and many other burdensome requirements. The Directions were purported to improve the security of local organisations, and to give CERT-In information it could use to assess threats to India. Yet the Directions allowed incident reports to be sent by fax – good ol' fax – to CERT-In, which offered no evidence it operates or would build infrastructure capable of ingesting or analyzing the millions of incident reports it would be sent by compliant organizations.

    The Directions were roundly criticized by tech lobby groups that pointed out requirements such as compelling clouds to store logs of customers' activities was futile, since clouds don't log what goes on inside resources rented by their customers. VPN providers quit India and moved their servers offshore, citing the impossibility of storing user logs when their entire business model rests on not logging user activities. VPN operators going offshore means India's government is therefore less able to influence such outfits.

    Continue reading
  • Hangouts hangs up: Google chat app shuts this year
    How many messaging services does this web giant need? It's gotta be over 9,000

    Google is winding down its messaging app Hangouts before it officially shuts in November, the web giant announced on Monday.

    Users of the mobile app will see a pop-up asking them to move their conversations onto Google Chat, which is yet another one of its online services. It can be accessed via Gmail as well as its own standalone application. Next month, conversations in the web version of Hangouts will be ported over to Chat in Gmail. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022