Penthouse Publisher Files for Bankruptcy

Paid adult content can’t compete with free material

Friendfinder Networks, the company which had purchased the iconic Penthouse adult magazine business from its bankrupt owner, General Media, Inc. (FFN.com), has itself filed for bankruptcy protection this month (LA Times) in the face of continuing competition from free adult content online.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, Penthouse established several specialty magazines but was late to adapt to the Internet. Penthouse Forum and Penthouse Variations, both high-quality publications, were among the earliest mainstream adult magazines to feature kink erotica. Forum was based around articles and discussions, while Variations consisted mostly of real and fictional reader confessions.

By today’s standards, Variations would be considered conventionally pornographic — most of the protagonists were portrayed as unrealistic porn-star types rather than guys- or gals-next-door, and almost all of the stories culminated in wet, messy intercourse — but the magazine did serve to introduce topics such as erotic spanking and female domination to a more mainstream readership during the years before the Internet.

UK Universal Internet Censorship Plan Hits Snag

A conference of the minority Liberal-Democratic party has rejected a plan that would have imposed sweeping censorship on UK Internet customers, raising hopes that the scheme might be softened.

Under the present plan, around the end of the year, all ISP customers would be presented with an options menu of material to block, but all of the categories would be pre-ticked. This censorship would be far more extensive than many realize, because not only “adult” content, but also social networks and “violent” websites would be blocked by default, requiring the customer to make an affirmative choice to continue receiving those types of content. (One can imagine the help desks at British ISP’s being flooded with calls the next day when Facebook “stops working”!)

The current plan also calls for anti-pornography propaganda to be taught in schools, one goal being to “Ensure that teaching about the dangers of the internet and the distorted view of sex provided by pornography forms part of sex education teaching.”

Further information can be found at ISP Preview

Internet Censorship in US Libraries: 10 Years Later

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an interesting article about the unintended consequences of the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which was upheld by the US Supreme Court ten years ago despite First Amendment objections. The law requires libraries, often in poorer neighborhoods, that receive certain federal funds to block youth and adults from viewing vaguely-defined sexually themed “images.” In practice, far more types of content are blocked, including written material and even entire websites.

Among the various effects of the law is that young adults have less opportunity to access the unfiltered Internet and therefore are less prepared to deal with it: “[W]e are failing to empower our children with the skills they need to use good judgment, common sense, and basic precautions when browsing the web. Rather than employing overly stringent filters to censor the Web, libraries and schools should educate students to protect themselves online.”

I reported on the ruling at the time, with some dismay, here.

The EFF article is at https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/09/cost-censorship-libraries-10-years-under-childrens-internet-protection-act?