Why porn sites are participating in Internet Slowdown Day

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Don’t worry, fappers: Your favorite sites aren’t actually slowing down. 

Today, Pornhub and a host of other tube sites are participating in Internet Slowdown Day, a protest against the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)’s proposal to create Internet “fast lanes” for clients who pay an additional fee. Pornhub’s social media rep Katie_Pornhub posted the announcement in r/technology last week:

We’re in. Let’s make some waves!

We’ll be displaying an official widget from battleforthenet.com. We won’t be shutting down or streaming your porn slower. There will be a big in your face message that users will need to close. We hope to reach around 50 million people on Sept 10th.

See battleforthenet.com for more information and how you can take action.

Like Netflix, Reddit, and the thousands of other sites participating in the protests, Pornhub isn’t actually slowing down load times. Instead, it’s displaying a “spinning wheel” to symbolize how creating Internet “fast lanes” for a select number of clients would slow down streaming for the rest of us. Fellow streaming tube sites Youporn and Redtube, which are also owned by the Luxembourg-based conglomerate Mindgeek, are also involved with the protest.

Given how much traffic sites like Pornhub generate on a daily basis—according to Alexa rankings, it’s the 75th most visited site in the world, respectively—its participation in Internet Slowdown Day makes for a powerful statement in favor of net neutrality. (A representative for Pornhub declined to comment further on the site’s role in the protest.)

But why is Pornhub joining the protest, and how would the FCC’s proposed Internet “fast lanes” affect their business model? More generally speaking: Why is protecting net neutrality important to the porn industry at large?

Part of the reason why the adult industry is so invested in the net neutrality debate is because the FCC’s proposed rules would put increased pressure on websites that offer streaming video services, like Pornhub or Redtube, to pay higher rates to their ISPs for faster Internet. This would apply doubly to smaller sites or independent contractors, which might not be able to afford fast lane rates.

“It’s doubtful that smaller, independent websites would survive without some kind of net neutrality protection,” Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine, recently told U.S. News. “It’s a huge First Amendment issue.”

Even bigger sites like Pornhub, which could theoretically be more than able to afford to pay for fast-lane access, might not be immune to the effects of the FCC’s proposed laws. Todd Glider, the CEO of online adult magazine Badoink.com (NSFW), sees the introduction of a tiered system as “a warning sign of the Pandora’s Box variety,” particularly due to the stigmatized nature of the online adult industry.

“This sort of thing gets the attention of those special interest groups committed to our destruction as an industry,” he told the Daily Dot via email, citing advocacy groups like Focus on the Family and Morality in the Media as examples. (Morality in Media, for instance, successfully rallied for Google to modify their Ad Words policy to prohibit adult content advertising a few months ago.)

Ultimately, in an industry that’s no stranger to big business discrimination, there’s a concern that the loss of net neutrality would bring about even more restrictions on the adult industry. Given the financial difficulties the industry has struggled with as a result of piracy, the introduction of a tiered system could be disastrous. Says Glider: “At the end of the day, everyone in the adult online world knows that if this is the end of net neutrality, we’re never going to be allowed in that fast lane.”

Photo by William Hook/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)

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