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Media Whips Up Sensationalist Headlines About ‘Drone Porn’

Today the Daily Star posted an article called “DRONE PORN: Shock rise in sex pests filming horny Brit couples from the sky,” which I think we can all agree is the best title ever. The question I was asking myself is, is this true, or are we seeing another moral panic similar to the ones raised about the “notorious hacker known as 4chan”?

Sensationalist headlines like “CREEPY PEEPERS PEERING INTO EVERY DOORWAY! READ THIS NOW, YOU’RE NOT SAFE! WE’VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT DRONES!” may bring coveted page views, but stirring up hysteria about private drone use that results in anyone who wants to play with a quadcopter being required to submit a blood and semen sample and undergo a federal background check benefits no one. How the media approaches topics like this matters, so I opened an incognito window and dug into the facts of the story.

A search for “drone” on numerous pornographic websites produced almost nothing. The sites I have found results for were “fake porn” sites — it would be like an article suggesting, “The Bangbus is real, and it’s coming for your daughter!” (Selling actual “leaked” videos without keeping record of age/model releases doesn’t actually happen on legal websites.)

When I started to run down the claims, things started to fall apart.

“The Metropolitan Police (Met) has seen a huge rise in reports of nuisance drone flying, logging 21 cases in 2015, up from just one the previous year,” the Daily Star claimed.

20 times more incidents sounds like a lot, until you realize that there was 21 this year in total, and ony 1 the year before. Considering drone sales are up 167% (Parrot alone up 356%) over the last year (4.3 million sold), 20 in one city isn’t a lot. The Metropolitan Police cover Greater London, with a population of over 8 million, yet 21 instances of “nuisance drone flying” is described as a “huge problem.”

One of the people quoted in the article is a spokeperson for Ghost+Cow Films, a studio behind a pornographic title filmed entirely by drones. But his statement, as quoted by the Daily Star, makes no mention of drones but rather the ease with which digital files can be shared on the Internet: “It’s already a problem. If you can shoot something digitally and it exists as a digital file, it can be put all over the web.” Other sources in the article are speculating or seem uninformed on the technology. The evidence given is thin, uncited, or where cited blown completely out of proportion.

I’ve found as many articles about people shooting down drones (some probably for good reason,) running drones into things, and all sorts of operator error. There have been incidents — but scattered across the world, not some constant perv attack from above.

Then there’s the other side of the issue:

There have been instances of physical attacks against the drone community by maybe well-meaning folks, probably terrified by articles just like this. Most articles about drones have comments sections filled with paranoid fantasies of skies filled with robots all coming for our attractive daughters or the best type of shotgun to blast them out of the sky with. People actually are getting worked up about this sort of thing, and while I don’t fly drones myself, I know a lot of people who do (responsibly.)

And if you’re still just itching to grab a shotgun and start shooting at drones, remember when you do that guns are often the victims of exactly these sorts of salacious stories; change the word “drone” to “gun” and you’ll see how drone operators feel. You don’t have to be a fan of a technology to not want to restrict it based on media fear.

Follow Will Ross on Twitter @SawmillLoris.

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