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International Media Coverage for Study on the Consumption of Pornography

Professor Neil Thurman's recent study on the regulation of internet pornography has attracted extensive media coverage, including in UK national newspapers, national talk radio, and the BBC's main national evening television news programme.

09.06.2021

Professor Neil Thurman's recent study on the regulation of internet pornography has attracted extensive media coverage, including in UK national newspapers, national talk radio, and the BBC's main national evening television news programme.

The research also trended on social media, becoming the top trending paper in 'Communication' and 'Political Science' (as measured by Altmetric).

The study, co-authored with Fabrian Obster, was inspired by moves in democratic countries—such as France, the UK, Canada, Germany, and Australia—to regulate internet pornography. The emerging legislation targets different media platforms, but there has been scant evidence about the media platforms and technologies young people use to access pornography.

Via a survey of 16- and 17-year-olds in the UK, Thurman and Obster found that almost four in five had seen online pornography, and their exposure was frequent, most commonly on the day of the survey. They were accessing this content via both social media, search engines, and dedicated pornographic sites: 63% of respondents had viewed pornography via social media platforms, 51% via search engines and 47% on dedicated porn websites.

Although it was more common for respondents to have seen pornography on social media and search than on dedicated pornographic websites, dedicated pornographic websites were much more frequent sources of exposure.
The findings support some Governments' moves to include social media in regulation, but also show the importance of the regulation of dedicated pornographic websites.

However, the research also found that almost half of respondents had used a virtual private network (VPN) or Tor browser that could be used to get around age verification checks imposed by a single country, showing the challenges of regulating content on the world wide web.

The study is published in Policy & Internet.

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