UK Porn Viewers To Face Age Checks From 15 July

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No ‘summer loving’ for British porn viewers if they fail to verify their age from mid July

Access to online pornographic in the UK will become that little bit harder, with UK visitors having to verify their age from 15 July.

Implementation of the age verification has been repeatedly delayed, but from 15 July the age-check scheme designed to stop children under-18 viewing pornographic websites, will come into force.

Last year 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.

Age checks

From 15 July the UK will become the first country in the world to bring in age-verification for porn websites. Affected websites are those that host mostly pornographic material.

“It means that commercial providers of online pornography will be required by law to carry out robust age-verification checks on users, to ensure that they are 18 or over,” said the government. “The move is backed by 88 percent of UK parents with children aged 7-17, who agree there should be robust age-verification controls in place to stop children seeing pornography online.”

If websites fail to comply they will face being blocked by internet service providers or having their payment services withdrawn.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

“Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online,” said Minister for Digital Margot James. “The introduction of mandatory age-verification is a world-first, and we’ve taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content. We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this.”

“On entry into force, consumers will be able to identify that an age-verification provider has met rigorous security and data checks if they carry the BBFC’s new green ‘AV’ symbol,” explained BBFC chief executive David Austin.

How it works

One expert has desribed how the measures are designed to stop children from stumbling across porn whilst online.

“Key amongst these is the possibility of minors stumbling across material – such as pornography – which studies show can be damaging to young people’s mental health,” said Alastair Graham, Chair of the Age Verification Providers Association and CEO of AgeChecked.

“The NSPCC, for example, recently cited widespread confusion over what constitutes ‘normal’ intimate activity as a cause for increasing peer sexual abuse,” he said. “Safeguarding children online, and helping to prevent them from viewing such material, is therefore of utmost importance.”

Graham explained that whenever a UK IP address attempts to access a website with age-restricted content, the user will have to verify they are over 18.

They will not be able to view explicit content until they have proven their age.

“The onus of implementing such checks will fall on individual pornographic websites,” said Graham. “Given that the government has not created its own verification system for websites to use, website operators will need to choose from a number of different age-checking software services on the market.”

Some checks 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.

“Each time the user logs on to the website in question, they will not have to re-verify themselves in order to access it,” he added. “Instead, they simply sign in as normal and they will be granted instant access. This way, compliant age checks can be carried out without disrupting the user’s journey.”

There is even reports that users will be able to purchase so called “porn passes” from high street stores and newsagents, which would sell separate age-verification cards to adults after carrying out face-to-face checks.

But 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.

Cameron-era policy

The Conservatives under David Cameron 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.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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