The teen sex video that made the internet go wild is not as dangerous now as it was in the 90s, according to researchers.
“It’s not as harmful as we would have liked to believe,” said the lead researcher of the UK’s Sexual Exploitation and Cyberbullying Research Unit, which published the findings of a recent study.
“[The video] doesn’t have to be as violent as it looks, it’s not going to be an escape, it can be consensual,” Dr Paul Tait, a lecturer in computer science at the University of Sussex, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The video was filmed in 1999, when the British media was still in its infancy and there was no national legislation on porn and the internet.
“It was actually the first video to show off all the things we’re now talking about,” Dr Tait said.
“We were actually seeing things that we’d never seen before.”
The researchers looked at the footage to see how it affected teenagers, and found that while most of the content was explicit, some of it was harmless.
“The majority of the stuff that was shown was not actually harmful, it was just a bit of fun, which was fine,” Dr Matthew Burt, a researcher at the Sexual Exploiters Alliance, said.
“We thought it was really interesting to look at the content, and we think there’s a lot of good content out there and we want to encourage people to look into it.”
Dr Tait’s findings come after the UK government announced it would launch an investigation into whether or not porn and its exploitation of young people was a growing problem.
The government has previously made a number of attempts to tackle porn’s role in online abuse, but these have so far been unsuccessful.
In 2015, the UK was one of the first countries to introduce a law aimed at preventing child pornography, and the same year a report by the Office for National Statistics said that the number of internet-based images depicting children had increased by almost 20 per cent since 2013.
More recently, the government announced plans to introduce the Digital Economy Act, which aims to address online abuse by forcing online platforms to disclose information on the number and nature of online child pornography accounts.
But it remains to be seen whether the government will succeed in tackling the problem of child pornography and exploitation.
Dr Burt believes that if it does, the internet could be a good place to start.
“What we need to do is look at pornography as a tool for abuse,” he said.
“If you look at porn as a child predator, or as a sexual predator, it is not the most effective way to address that.”