PhoneErotica.com, a leading adult WAP site, and has generated more wireless traffic than MSN on at least one major U.S. carrier. This traffic has caught the attention of the wireless operators, raising their fears of regulation along with their interest in profiting from adult content services.
The wireless adult content market will be worth approximately $90 million in the United States and $1 billion globally in 2008. Yet, most carriers are paralyzed by the threat/opportunity and are ignoring it completely. Some conservative U.S. and Japanese carriers refuse to allow their billing systems to be used for any adult content services, regardless of a customer’s age. European carriers typically have allowed their premium SMS systems to enable adult content. They are now attempting to self-regulate by blocking underage use.
Carriers could block all access to adult content WAP sites and refuse to work with any content aggregators that accept adult content. The Saudi government, for example, blocks all adult Web sites. However, a filtering strategy would invite free-speech legislation in Western countries. Nonetheless, carriers recognize an obligation to stop underage viewing of adult content. Thus, they find themselves navigating between twin dangers: civil rights violations and costly child protection regulations.
In the United States, where there is no filtering of WAP sites, anyone can browse wireless adult content sites. Ironically, if carriers were to charge for an adult service such as PhoneErotica.com, they would cut down on underage viewing. The site is free, so traffic is high. However, carriers are terrified of the press and politicians learning about how they are profiting from the business. Most U.S. carriers will enable their billing systems to be used by adult content providers, but only after they discover an acceptable mechanism for blocking underage viewing.
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