What is Section 230 and Why Should I Care? 

Adult Business Consulting is a global business. With different perspectives and cultural experiences, we work with clients from all over the world. 

The capacity to perform in adult in a specific region depends on the freedom of expression on the internet and how these governments uphold these rights, yet this is not the sole defining element.

We at Adult Business Consulting are aware that this might be the most pressing issue right now.

Section 230 of the Decency Act of 1996

Western values alone?

The United States, as well as nations like Canada and the United Kingdom, are known for their commitment to free speech and expression. The United Nations and other organizations see this protection as a fundamental human right.

Given that certain cultures and nations do not share these views, it is critical to comprehend why so many businesses and site owners in the porn industry rely on American legal norms for things like age verification, model compliance, and free expression. This explains, for example, why so many people working in the adult sector support regulations like Section 230, often referred to as “the First Amendment of the internet.”

Global Perspectives on Sex and Porn in Culture

Regardless of how receptive our society will be of sexual freedom in our private life, the adult entertainment industry is contentious. Most Western hemisphere nations are somewhat permissive of the creation and distribution of consensual adult content for other adults to see online. To name a few, there are nations like the United States, Canada, Argentina, Colombia, the United Kingdom, and Spain. This threshold of acceptance is widespread, leaving pornographic content as a cultural aspect, barring a wave of anti-digital rights activities supported by the UK government and the European Union.

Other nations, though, do not operate in this manner. Pornography is regulated or completely prohibited in numerous nations, including China, Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and India—some of which even proclaim to be bulwarks of human rights and freedom of expression. It should be noted that the Chinese Communist Party controls and forbids “pornographic” and “obscene” content since it is seen as counter-revolutionary and a detriment to the morals of the country.

There are numerous instances across Islamic Asia, particularly in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, where locals and visitors are detained just for uploading stuff to their social media or OnlyFans accounts.

Another recent instance involves a fashion model from Egypt who is being prosecuted for posing in a historical cosplay of an Egyptian princess. The controversy stems from the costume’s exposing character and the fact that the picture shoot was held at a prominent area with historical and cultural significance.

Basics of Section 230

In the United States, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 is a model law that provides legal protection for all businesses that use the internet to disseminate speech.

Even while we are aware that this term is exceedingly broad, the legislation itself is. Let’s talk briefly about the past.

Commonplace Debates Regarding Section 230

Most of you undoubtedly have some familiarity with Section 230. It is more than simply a political jargon used to decry the dominance of powerful social media and internet businesses in political discourse.

Due to his conviction that the largest technology companies in the world, such as Google and Twitter, systematically censor politically conservative points-of-view on platforms that are owned and operated by companies that have opposing views, Section 230 was a favorite of former US President Donald Trump to criticize. There is little evidence to support these systematic biases, according to academic and media ethics research, and several sectors of the technology industry, including adult entertainment, refute the assertions.

Even the current US president, Joseph Biden, has voiced opposition to Section 230. Section 230, according to Biden and progressives in the US, permits bigotry and hate speech. Both sides want to delete or alter Section 230 to get rid of a clause known as the safe harbor provision that protects platforms, even though they have distinct complaints.

Safe Harbor and the Era of “Communications Decency”

In a time when the internet was developing quickly, the US Congress passed the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The digital adult industry has thrived and established many of the industry-wide business methods still in use today ever since the advent of a web browser and file sharing.

The Communications Decency Act was backed by organizations like anti-porn organizations, child protection organizations, and religiously linked ministries because it imposed criminal and civil penalties on individuals who permitted the transmission of “obscene” content to minors. Given the primitive understanding of the internet at the time, politicians essentially created a legislation that would prohibit the transmission of any obscene information and visual content that would be considered damaging to children, such as sexual health information or violent news items. The freedom of speech was swiftly curtailed by this law.

Intervention by the Supreme Court

The main part of the Communications Decency Act, however, was declared to be in violation of the First Amendment and the US Constitution by the US Supreme Court, who sided with civil liberties organizations in their decision. The First Amendment safeguards freedom of speech, the press, religion, sexual orientation, and other rights in the US.

The Supreme Court decided to keep Section 230 because of the way this legal clause was written. According to the high court, most First Amendment-protected forms of free expression are also protected by this clause. This includes the safe harbor clause that we already indicated.

Online platforms can self-regulate and filter the content that is published on them by other users or publishers thanks to the safe harbor clause in Section 230. Such a legal power gives the businesses that control the online platforms the authority to prohibit and censor third-party content that is deemed to be damaging, unlawful, or in violation of the corporate culture or terms of service of the business.

A Two-Sided Relationship: Social Media & Adult Content

Given its history in US case law for being linked to the First Amendment and the right to free speech online, Section 230 is frequently referred to as the “First Amendment of the internet.” But the legal situation for the adult entertainment sector is complicated. The law allows social networks like Twitter to shadow ban adult content producers based on ambiguous interpretations of the law by the company and its use terms, even though Section 230 encourages platforms like Pornhub or xHamster to police their own tube sites for illegal and non-consensual content and report it to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.

The four most popular social media platforms for adult entertainment businesses and content producers are Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. With the addition of age restriction restrictions that the firm recently established in response to several hasty legal challenges in nations like the United Kingdom and India, Twitter is the only platform that permits full nudity and sex scenes. The Chinese video-sharing app TikTok has a stringent policy against nudity, but it is well recognized for allowing exposing clothing and “link in bio” features through third-party services like Linktree, My.Bio, and AllMyLinks. For Instagram, the same holds true if frontal nudity is curtailed or never displayed. Given that the app is designed for bit-sized, self-destructing image and text messaging between users, Snapchat is lax with these regulations (thus, many cam models, OnlyFans founders, and independent performers “sell” access to their private Snapchat accounts).

The right of these companies and their platforms to self-regulate and moderate content to enhance user experience and digital safety is protected by Section 230 by virtue of its legislative design and judicial importance.

But identifying what justifies a moderation action against an adult model or a pornographic studio is a challenge. This is a persistent problem in the sector and is currently in legal ambiguity. So, as you might have guessed, we in the adult industry rely on Section 230‘s protections for our own platforms, but we also need to quickly adjust to the challenges posed by social media censorship and challenges to our content distribution by platforms we don’t own but merely use as third parties to drive traffic and generate leads for new fans.

Civil Liberties and Section 230

In many instances, Section 230 is a civil right in the United States that is protected by federal law. At least, it is how Section 230 is described by civil rights and digital freedom organizations. For instance, civil liberties and digital freedom organizations like the Electronic Freedom Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Wikimedia Foundation contend that anything that challenges Section 230 in its current form would violate the right to free expression for almost every website that American citizens use. If we consider the borderlessness of the digital environment, that would effectively be the entire internet.

The Woodhull Freedom Foundation has joined forces with other civil liberties and human rights organizations to oppose the contentious FOSTA-SESTA law. A law known as FOSTA-SESTA was enacted during the Trump administration with the stated intention of preventing human trafficking and online sexual exploitation. Although the intention is sincere, the law pretends that Section 230 is a law that permits these actions at an alarmingly high rate to combat this kind of crime. But this isn’t the case. According to the Woodhull Freedom Foundation’s lawsuit, FOSTA-SESTA inhibits constitutionally protected and consensually created pornographic content on the internet, which is in violation of Section 230 and the First Amendment.

Read more from the Adult Business Consulting blog.

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