AVN Interviews ASACP CEO - Following the Leader
AVN Interviews ASACP CEO - Following the Leader
Joan Irvine leads the industry’s fight against child porn.
By: Bianca Fox, www.avn.com
Following the Leader
Joan Irvine leads the industry's fight against child porn.
Eliminating child pornography from the Internet may be the most highly supported cause of the adult industry. Leading the fight is a nonprofit organization funded by the adult industry, the Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection.
In 2002, the ASACP hired a woman who possesses an undying passion for the group's cause. Joan Irvine became the organization's first executive director, bringing 25 years of experience in e-commerce, business technology and association management. Her previous role as vice president of membership for the Virtual International Community, an association of digital entertainment professionals, helped her transition to the ASACP.
"I can't say enough about Joan Irvine's contributions to ASACP," said Tim Henning, the organization's technology and compliance director. "There is no question that her leadership, vision and tireless resolve have brought ASACP to where it is today. It is my honor and privilege to work with Joan. All of us at ASACP have a tremendous amount of admiration and respect for her, both as our leader and for her efforts to protect children and demonstrate that the adult industry cares a great deal about these issues."
The nonprofit is busting at the seams and eager to expand, and Irvine's plans for growth include promotion, fundraising, and government and international outreach.
In an effort to increase visibility, Irvine and the ASACP seek to increase funding by adding new members. Irvine recently hired the group's first director of membership, Ruby Tan, a six-year employee of Playboy.
"The government is now slowly learning about us," Irvine said. "When we travel to D.C. or anywhere else mainstream, we have to have all of our ducks in a row. We had to have all of our technology together, RTA documented and running and a staff to handle things. Up until a year ago, we did not have all of this."
ASACP maneuvered itself into the mainstream spotlight and caught the government's attention by creating the "Restricted to Adults" website label, which was designed to help parents keep their children from viewing inappropriate content. Websites with the label can be recognized by Internet browsers, filtering software, Internet service providers, search engines and operating systems as being off-limits to kids, as long as parents install appropriate filtering systems.
In September 2007, the RTALabel.org home page was linked to 700,000 pages. As of Dec. 6, there were 3.5 million link-ins to the RTA label website.
There's never a dull moment for Irvine on Capitol Hill, a hot spot that provides perfect opportunities for her to drop the ASACP name and promote the good will of the adult industry.
Irvine schedules her life around such events, including the semiannual meeting of the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography, which was held most recently in November. The group includes leaders of financial institutions, the Internet industry and others that have joined with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in an effort to eradicate commercial child pornography by 2008.
This is just one event where law enforcement, banks, government agencies and credit-card companies listen intently to Irvine's positions. As a result of Irvine's marketing efforts, several groups request information from the ASACP.
"We are part of the analytical group for the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography and provide them with numbers from our child-protection hotline and other information hotlines, so that we can develop trends," Irvine explained.
Irvine returned to Washington in December for the annual conference of the Family Online Safety Institute, formerly known as the Internet Content Rating Association. At the conference, Irvine informed attendees about the industry's support for the development of the RTA label.
Irvine and the ASACP also conduct legislative tracking, searching for new bills that involve child protection and child pornography.
"If we agree with the bill, we write them a letter of support and send them information about us," Irvine said. "If we do not agree with a bill, we also write them a letter that states that we realize their intentions, but we do not see that this bill would help. We then offer them suggestions."
Irvine continues to encourage adult webmasters to show their support by becoming members or sponsors, which allows them to place the ASACP logo on their home pages, announcing that their sites neither contain nor condone child pornography. As of May 2007, the ASACP had more than 70 sponsors, companies that donate between $5,000 and $25,000 a year to support the organization's efforts.
Through its hotline, the ASACP receives more than 100,000 reports of suspected child pornography annually. The group investigates to determine each suspected site's hosting, billing, IP address, ownership and linkage. The ASACP then shares the information with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the FBI, the state attorney general's office and international hotlines, as well as Internet service providers, domain registrars, and credit card and billing companies. This past August, the hotline received 12,422 raw reports and forwarded 105 "red flag" reports.
The ASACP was founded in 1996 as the Adult Sites Against Child Pornography by Alec Helmy, a new college graduate who worked at a video-game company. At the time, the industry thrived with Internet revenue, a blessing that also came with a curse: Web-based child pornography also was on the rise, and the government's finger was pointed directly at adult webmasters.
Helmy believed that the industry was missing an outlet to express its disapproval of child pornography. So he created a place where adult webmasters and consumers could report child pornography on the Internet and dispel the misconception that child pornography is connected to the adult industry. The industry embraced the idea, and webmasters signed on with virtually no promotions. Helmy, now president and publisher of XBiz, is part of the group's advisory council, which includes Rand Pate of Epoch Transaction Services, Farley Cahen of AVN Media Network, Holly Moss of HMoss Consulting, Scott Rabinowitz of TrafficDude, Morgan Sommer of Cybersocket and Theresa Flynt of LFP Inc.
While the ASACP had gained exposure within the industry, Irvine said, the organization's "coming out" occurred in 2003 at AVN's Internext conference in Las Vegas.
"When I started working for the ASACP, I was told that if I could get AVN to support me, everyone else would follow," she explained. "Paul Fishbein and Darren Roberts listened to our goals and offered to support us with ads and a booth at the conference. It was our first trade show with only one volunteer. I knew no one. However, everyone was so supportive, and they continue to be."
For more information about the ASACP, visit ASACP.org.
This article originally appeared in the March 2008 edition of AVN Online magazine.