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Playboy hit with $160,000 fine over child restrictions

The U.K.'s Ofcom has charged with Playboy with failing "to protect children from potentially harmful pornographic material."


Playboy has been slapped with a fine for allegedly making it too easy for children to access pornographic material on its Web sites.

Ofcom, the U.K.'s communications regulator and competition authority, announced yesterday that it has fined Playboy 100,000 British pounds ($160,200) for failing to include "acceptable controls" ensuring a person viewing pornographic material on Playboy TV and Demand Adult was at least 18 years old.

Ofcom charged Playboy with "failing to protect children from potentially harmful pornographic material," adding that the failure was "serious, repeated, and reckless."

Playboy did have age restrictions in place on Demand Adult and Playboy TV. In the first case, Demand Adult asked that users click a button labeled "Enter I am over 18" before being able to view hardcore material. Upon paying with a debit card, they could access more material. With Playboy TV, users were asked to "self-certify their age," according to Ofcom.

Despite those measures, Ofcom argues that the controls are not "effective age verification systems."

Ofcom didn't say what would constitute an "effective" verification system. However, the organization pointed to Rule 11 of the Authority for Television On Demand rules:

If an on-demand programme service contains material which might seriously impair the physical, mental or moral development of persons under the age of eighteen, the material must be made available in a manner which secures that such persons will not normally see or hear it.

"The business subject to fine was part of the Manwin sale transaction completed in late 2011," a Playboy spokesperson told CNET in an e-mailed statement. "Accordingly, Playboy cannot speak to the application of the regulations to the websites at issue."

Update 2:05 p.m. PT to include Playboy statement.