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New UK Law to Force Age Verification on Internet Porn Sites

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016 (12:01 am) - Score 3,424
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The government has launched a new consultation on proposals that would require “all” pornographic Internet content providers (e.g. websites) to introduce Age Verification Systems, with the hope being that this would prevent vulnerable children from accessing potentially damaging material. But children will probably find a way around it.

The Government claims that their new “legal requirement” will put the responsibility “squarely on the shoulders of companies who create and profit from online pornography“, which happily suggests that the focus is more on the content providers themselves and not Internet access providers in general (the big ISPs already offer network-level parental controls for blocking porn sites).

Under the proposals set out in the consultation, the government will:

* Establish a new requirement in law for commercial providers to have in place robust age verification controls for online pornographic content in the UK.

* Legislate to establish a new regulatory framework, underpinned by civil sanctions.

And under the proposals, the new regulatory framework and civil regime will:

* Involve giving a regulator or regulators powers to enforce the new law, supported by a sufficiently flexible enforcement regime.

* Monitor compliance with the new law by commercial pornography providers.

* Enable those that support the business model of pornographic content providers (such as payment providers, advertisers and other ancillary services) to withdraw services from commercial providers in breach of the law.

* Impose sanctions where breaches have been identified and providers remain non-compliant.

* Give the regulator discretion to set and monitor standards for age verification controls.

Some of the measures, such as those that would be placed upon payment providers and advertisers, could make it much harder for even some non-UK focused content / porn providers to simply ignore the law.

This is also important because any future reliance on mandatory blocking of adult websites in the United Kingdom, should that occur at ISP-level (this is being considered), would not on its own be effective enough to prevent children, specifically those who go actively seeking such content, from finding their way around the filters.

Baroness Shields, Internet Safety and Security Minister, said:

“The internet is a tremendous resource for learning and creativity but it is important to make sure that children are able to make the most of all it has to offer in a safe way. Keeping children safe online is one of government’s greatest priorities.

Just as we do offline, we want to make sure children are prevented from accessing pornographic content online which should only be viewed by adults.

So we are delivering on our manifesto promise by launching this consultation today, which proposes we require companies providing this pornographic content to ensure they have safeguards in place to ensure those accessing their websites are over 18.”

One of the obvious challenges in all of this will be in delivering a reliable age verification check in the first place. The obvious fix is to require Credit Card Verification (CVV), but how many people would risk entrusting such sensitive private details to related websites. On top of that it’s important to stress that not all adults have or are even allowed a credit card and some cards can also be jointly held by a minor.

Equally it will be interesting to see how big Internet search engines, such as Google and Bing, react to the news as it’s technically incredibly difficult for their image search algorithm to accurately ensure that all such images can be automatically blocked from prying eyes.

No doubt there will also be plenty of sites that don’t rely on UK linked payment or advertising services and will thus simply ignore the measures. A global agreement is needed in order to really close the tap on porn. The consultation itself will run until midday on 12th April 2016.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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3 Responses
  1. Avatar cyclope

    What a load of bullcrap, think of the children, what about us adults the bill payers do we not get a say in this? I have credit cards but there is zero chance of me ever using my cc to access any porn site,And if this totalitarian government wants to treat us all like children perhaps its time we all threw our rattles well and truly out of the pram and spat our dummies at those dummies in government and told them to get a life

  2. Avatar hadenough

    It’s bullshit, spying through the backdoor under the same old excuse “think of the kids” like when you go to the supermarket and the tin rattles are always near the bloody door “CHILDREN with cerebral palsyyyyy!” why can’t you just say “PEOPLE with cerebral palsy” because you think if you say “children” I will hand my money over….same deal here, stealth spying through the backdoor nothing to see here.

  3. Avatar Alex

    This saddens me. Restricting porn for young people will not stop the demand. This is the age at which sex is a new interest. Young people wont just forgett it, they will look for different material. They will be asking young girls and boys to snapchat and send pictures of things to replace the image they are banned from and underage sex could increase if they cant practice in private anymore. Kids will be stealing Identities to acess websites and black market porn dvd’s will be created. It will make it so much harder to moniter illegal sexual activity as it could go off the web. Children could be exploited to create this underground porn. Banning will create a damaging underground out of something that could have been monitered by parents.

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