Hutchison confronts 3G porn issue

While there's clearly money to be made from offering access to adult services, 3G licence-holders are also facing some serious legal issues

3G-licence holder Hutchison 3G said on Monday that it was looking into the issue of adult services being available through its 3G devices.

The company has confirmed that a staff member within its entertainment team was examining at the issue of adult content, but denied that it was only interested in making money out of soft pornography. "We have not signed any content deals with anyone offering adult services," said a Hutchison spokesman.

The company, which should launch its high-speed mobile Internet service before the end of 2002, is facing up to the issue -- both as a legal minefield and a potential revenue stream.

While the pornographic industry will see 3G phone users as an obvious target for their services, Hutchison is also concerned about the possibility that its customers could access illegal material through its service.

"Within a few years, 3G users will have access to thousands of different Web sites. Our aim is to make sure that nothing illegal is offered through our devices," said the Hutchison 3G spokesman -- comparing the issue to the legal dilemmas confronted by today's ISPs.

The data transfer rates offered by a 3G network will allow a user to view streaming video clips, and should also support video conferencing.

Experts are concerned that children could be at risk when using 3G devices, if sufficiently rigorous security measures aren't in place. Alex Hossack, consultant clinical psychologist at Mersey Forensic Psychology Service, told ZDNet news last year that online paedophiles could take advantage of 3G video. "3G will give you a visual representation of who you are talking to," said Hossack.

Hutchison 3G insists there is no chance that it will generate its own soft-core content. But the company may well decide that it is happy for such services -- which are already easily available to cable, satellite and digital TV subscribers -- to be available to its users.

If handled badly, however, the pornography issue can lead to poor publicity. Yahoo! was recently forced into a u-turn on the issue. The company decided to stop selling porn on Yahoo! Shopping, Yahoo! Auctions and Yahoo! Classifieds on Friday, after the relaunch of its adult section was swamped with complaints.

See the Mobile Technology News Section for full coverage.

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