For years now, pornography sites like Pornhub have been stealthily taking advantage of an oft-overlooked loophole in the streaming service Roku. That workaround, though, is going away.
The shift is a major victory for those fighting to expose the dark underbelly of the pornography industry, Dawn Hawkins, CEO of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, told Faithwire via email Wednesday.
Roku announced during its annual developer conference last week it is updating how it deals with private channels — uncertified channels, as the company calls them — that don’t appear in the service’s bonafide channel store, according to Protocol. The restructured policy takes effect March 1, 2022.
Initially intended to allow developers the freedom to test feeds before submitting them to Roku’s official channel store, a whole host of pornography websites saw an opportunity, and they pounced. They took advantage of the option to run uncertified channels, which would never be granted final approval for the channel store, through the platform by giving users a code or direct link via the Roku website.
Those channels are not searchable and can only be accessed through a code or link.
Roku has faced a great deal of criticism for its existing policy on uncertified channels. In fact, a few years ago, Mexico briefly banned the sale of Roku devices in the country, citing concerns about the feeds containing illegal material, Tech Crunch reported. And since 2019, NCOSE has been calling out Roku for “effectively partnering with the pornography industry.” The platform responded to the criticism by adding a warning to uncertified channels, explaining it will remove private channels if the content housed within them “violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku’s terms and conditions.”
Now, though, it’s doing away with them altogether.
“This is a big strike to the exploitation industry as Roku was the only mainstream media streaming platform that allowed pornography, given that Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV have long banned it,” Hawkins told Faithwire. “Following on the heels of other mainstream companies cutting ties and refusing profits from sexual exploitation — such as Kraft-Heinz that will no longer run ads or Mastercard, which stopped processing payments — the pornography industry is finding few willing to prop up its infrastructure.”
“It is critical that mainstream companies sever ties as overwhelming evidence comes to light of filmed child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and other non-consensual acts that are being distributed on these online pornography websites,” she added.
A representative for Roku has not responded to Faithwire’s request for comment.
So what’s changing?
Roku is shuttering uncertified channels.
Beginning in March of next year, Roku will allow developers to test channels with a maximum of 20 users at a time before submitting them to be added to the platform’s channel store.
These feeds, called beta channels, are replacing the private channels currently on the service.
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