Conservatives Promise Age Checks For Online Porn

RegulationSecurity
David Cameron © Frederic Legrand Shutterstock

Sites based either in the UK or abroad would be blocked if they don’t impement such controls, according to the party

The Conservative Party has promised that if re-elected next month it will institute “effective” online age control mechanisms to keep children from viewing pornography.

“There will be some who say that this exercise is futile, that websites and children alike will find ways to get around this law,” said culture secretary Sajid Javid in a statement posted on Facebook. “But we must not let the best be the enemy of the good.”

Easy access

He said that currently anyone, regardless of their age, is only ever “two clicks away” from “the kind of material that would be kept well away from young eyes in the high street”. The announcement follows the publication of a survey last week by Childline that highlighted young people’s concerns about pornography.

The party didn’t specify what mechanism could be used, but said the plan would be implemented by an independent regulator with the power to force British ISPs to block websites that don’t comply, whether they’re based in the UK or abroad.

Javid told BBC Breakfast that credit-card checks could be used, and pointed out the use of electronic IDs in countries such as Finland.

Sarah Green, acting director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said surveys indicate more than half of young people have seen online pornography by the age of 14, with many seeing it “without even seeking it out”, while NSPCC chief Peter Wanless said the easy availability of such material to children is of “deepening concern”.

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“Any action that makes it more difficult for young people to find this material is to be welcomed,” he stated. “The key will be making any system work effectively.”

Some industry observers said the plan is comparable to the opt-out Internet filters introduced by the current government in 2013, which were intended to help households control access to adult material, but unintentionally blocked educational resources such as sexual health websites.

Filter rollout

All four of the UK’s largest ISPs had succeeded in offering the filter to new customers by last summer, according to Ofcom. BT, Sky and TalkTalk implemented the necessary tools by the December 2013 deadline while Virgin Media only got there in February.

At the time, the uptake of the filters among new customers stood at four percent for Virgin Media, five percent for BT, eight percent for Sky and 36 percent for TalkTalk, which has been offering a similar HomeSafe service as far back as May 2011.

The filters were introduced as a response to the growing prevalence of child abuse images online, but the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said at the time that the Conservatives have not done enough to crack down on such images.

“David Cameron said he would make sure the police had the resources. But the truth is that Theresa May has cut by 10 percent the resources for CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) – which has identified 50,000 cases of British residents accessing child abuse online, but only around 2,000 were pursued last year,” she said.

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