Porn Age Checks To Be Delayed – Again

UK visitors accessing pornographic websites in the UK may not have to verify their age from 15 July afterall.

It has been reported that the government is expected to announce a fresh postponement of age checking – another it is not clear at the time of writing as to the exact reason for the delay.

It had been expected that from 15 July, access to online pornographic content in the UK would entail users having to verify their age.

Another delay

And it should be remembered that age checking was supposed to have been implemented in April last year.

Porn website owners meanwhile have been preparing for the legal check.

Last year for example the owner of popular porn websites including PornHub revealed its online age verification tool call AgeID, it uses to verify the age of people seeking online smut.

But now the BBC has reported that while the government has not officially confirmed the postponement, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright is expected to make the announcement in the House of Commons later.

The UK does intend to become the first country in the world to bring in age-verification for porn websites. Affected websites are those that host mostly pornographic material.

If websites fail to comply they will face being blocked by internet service providers or having their payment services withdrawn.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the new laws.

But critics of the measure (and there are many), state the controls will be easy to bypass as it remains legal to use virtual private networks (VPNs).

And there is also widespread concern over how it will be enforced, with suggestions that websites could ask users to upload scans of their passports or driving licences, or use age-verification cards sold by newsagents nicknamed “porn passes”.

But then this raises concerns about the privacy and security of the scheme.

And it should be noted that these “porn passes” are only a theoretical solution so far, and there is no obligation for any porn website to accept them.

Some checks may work by allowing customers to confirm their age securely via an anonymous username and password.

To get this username and password, users must first age verify themselves via a number of methods including a mobile app, credit card or driving licence.

Again, that raises privacy concerns.

Cameron-era policy

The Conservatives under David Cameron had promised age checks back in 2015 in an effort to stop children from accessing online porn.

The move by Cameron was highly controversial, as it assumed that parents could not be trusted to install parental control software.

There are already opt-out internet porn filters introduced by the government in 2013, which were intended to help households control access to adult material, but unintentionally blocked educational resources such as sexual health websites.

All of this came despite the fact that in 2012, a survey by YouGov revealed that just one in four UK adults with children in their household was in favour of having a default porn filter.

UPDATE – Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright on Thursday confirmed an “important notification process was not undertaken for an element of this policy”.

He said the UK government had failed to inform Brussels about key aspects of the scheme.

Wright apologised and said it was still the government’s intention to bring in the age-checking system. But this should take about six months for it to complete its notification process.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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