The UK government is going to force porn sites to introduce age-checks or be banned


sex shop porn peep show
Chris
Sampson/Flickr (CC)


LONDON — Porn sites will be forced to verify the age of their
British users or they will be banned in the UK.


The Mail on Sunday
 and
The Times are both reporting that the plans
, which have been
in the works since last year, will be formally announced on
Monday as part of the Digital Economy Act. 

Pornography sites will be forced to verify users’ ages via their
credit cards to prove they are over 18, or face being banned in
Britain.

The aim is to prevent children from being exposed to pornography
online, which child protection charities warn can have
damaging effects on their development.

In a statement (via
The Independent
), government minister Matt Hancock
said: “We are taking the next step to put in place the legal
requirement for websites with adult content to ensure it is
safely behind an age-verification control.

“All this means that while we can enjoy the freedom of the web,
the UK will have the most robust internet child protection
measures of any country in the world.”

The Times reports that the filter is intended to be in place
by April 2018, and will affect both paid-for adult websites and
the free “tube” sites that currently do not require users to pay
or register to access pornographic content. 

It’s difficult to ban everything

There are still significant unanswered questions over how the ban
would work in practice. The internet is not neatly divided
into pornography and non-pornography. So while it’s technically
simple to block dedicated adult websites — plenty of
sites mix porn with non-pornographic content.

For example: Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, and 4chan are all huge
communities with hundreds of million users, and have no global
rules against sharing legal adult content. (Twitter only bans it
in “your profile image or header image.”) So it’s impossible for
these companies to know what they are hosting, unless it is
reported or brought to their attention — and it’d similarly be
impossible for the BBFC (the British censor) to keep an accurate
register of all subsections that play host to offending content.

Currently, Reddit does not carry out any unavoidable age
verification checks before accessing adult content; the
whole point of 4chan is that it is totally anonymous
and users don’t have accounts.

It is questionable whether these sites would make significant
structural changes at the behest of British authorities — risking
their complete censorship in the country. 

Conservative MP and former minister John Whittingdale, who
introduced the bill, has since expressed concerns about its
efficacy.
In November 2016, he told Parliament
: “One of the main ways
in which young people are now exposed to pornography is through
social media such as Twitter, and I do not really see that the
bill will do anything to stop that happening.”

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