New Canadian Bill Calls for Age and Consent Verification in Online Pornography

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Canadian Member of Parliament MP Viersen has proposed an exciting bill to combat the pornography industry’s distribution of recorded rape, child sexual abuse, sex-trafficking, and image-based sexual abuse. The bill is called the “STOP Internet Exploitation (SISE) Act.

If passed, the SISE Act would make it a criminal offense to create or distribute pornographic material without first verifying the age and consent of everyone depicted. Notably, the offense for distribution also applies if a depicted person has withdrawn their consent since the pornographic material was created.

Introduction of the Bill

On Thursday May 27th, 2021, MP Viersen held a press conference on the SISE Act, for which he invited numerous experts on sexual exploitation issues to testify as witnesses—all expressing warm support of his bill. These experts included:

By drawing upon the experiences of survivors whose trauma has been immortalized on the internet, the witnesses helped illustrate just how crucial the SISE Act’s proposals are.

“The SISE Act introduced by MP Arnold Viersen is an important step towards ensuring that the pornography industry does not continue to prey on the vulnerable, and we strongly support this effort.”

~ Dani Pinter

Age and Consent Verification for all individuals in pornographic content is a common sense, long overdue, and urgently needed regulation.”

~ Laila Mickelwait

Megan Walker quoted one survivor whose child sexual abuse images were uploaded and distributed on Pornhub: “Being hit with the reality that anyone could see the darkest points of my life nearly killed me . . . I was suicidal and have deep-seated shame about those videos, even though I was a child.” In light of the experiences of this survivor and numerous others like her, Walker powerfully asserts: “[The SISE Act] will save the lives of women and girls.”

View the full press conference here.

MP Viersen’s Commitment to Address Exploitation

MP Arnold Viersen has been an invaluable fighter against sexual exploitation for many years, and his thorough understanding of the issues are evident in his work on the SISE Act. He understands, for example, that it is not enough to require pornography sites to remove abusive videos when they are reported; rather, we must prevent the videos from being uploaded to the internet to begin with. As the experiences of numerous survivors demonstrate, once a video is on the internet it is nearly impossible to have it removed permanently, as it will continue to be re-uploaded and distributed elsewhere.

MP Viersen also understands the trauma experienced by women who may have originally agreed to appear in pornographic content, but have no option afterwards to ever revoke their consent. Take Mia Khalifa, who regretted entering the pornography industry and quit after only 3 months. Khalifa has been fighting for the last 6 years to have her videos taken down, sadly without success. She speaks of experiencing “hourly dissociative attacks from remembering hundreds of millions of people’s only impression of you is solely based on the lowest, most toxic, most uncharacteristic 3 months of your life when you were 21.”

Potential Effects of the SISE Act

MP Viersen’s SISE Act allows for people like Khalifa to withdraw their consent and retrieve the rights to their image. Under the SISE Act, it would be a criminal offense to distribute pornographic content without verifying that the depicted individual currently consents to that distribution.

It is important to acknowledge that no system of verifying consent is ever going to be foolproof. Individuals can always be coerced by traffickers to sign contracts or undergo the necessary verification process. The infamous case of GirlsDoPorn illustrates this.

Nonetheless, MP Viersen’s SISE Act is an enormous step forward that would reduce the number of women and children who are victimized. Not only that, it would put an end to the pornography industry’s free reign to operate with impunity, and hold them accountable for the harms they cause.

We are exceptionally grateful to MP Viersen for proposing such an important piece of legislation, and warmly commend his dedication to ending sexual exploitation. The SISE Act has our full support.

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The Numbers

300+

NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.

100+

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.

93

NCOSE’s activism campaigns and victories have made headlines around the globe. Averaging 93 mentions per week by media outlets and shows such as Today, CNN, The New York Times, BBC News, USA Today, Fox News and more.

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