The UK’s age verification system for online pornography will become mandatory on 15 July, the government has confirmed.
From that date, commercial providers of online pornography will be required to carry out “robust” age verification checks on users, in order to keep children from accessing adult content.
Websites that refuse to implement the checks face being blocked by UK internet service providers or having their access to payment services withdrawn.
The digital minister, Margot James, welcomed the introduction of the rules, saying: “Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online. 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.”
Will Gardner, the chief executive of Childnet, said: “We hope that the introduction of this age verification will help in protecting children, making it harder for young people to accidentally come across online pornography, as well as bringing in the same protections that we use offline to protect children from age-restricted goods or services.”
Some campaigners have criticised the laws’ potential effectiveness. The government was forced to exempt large social media sites from the ban owing to fears that a strict implementation would result in sites including Twitter, Reddit, Imgur and Tumblr being blocked for adult content.
Additionally, concerns have been raised that the laws could result in the creation of a database of the UK’s porn viewers, which would pose a privacy problem if it were to ever leak.
Unfortunately for the government’s attempts to calm fears on the privacy issue, the news was announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport in an email that exposed the contact details of almost 300 recipients. DCMS was also responsible for implementing the new GDPR laws in the UK, which mandate large financial penalties for breaches that expose personal data.
Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, said: “The government needs to compel companies to enforce privacy standards. The idea that they are ‘optional’ is dangerous and irresponsible. Having some age verification that is good and other systems that are bad is unfair and a scammer’s paradise – of the government’s own making.”
He added: “Data leaks could be disastrous, and they will be the government’s own fault. The government needs to shape up and legislate for privacy before their own policy results in people being outed, careers destroyed or suicides being provoked.”
Online pornography age checks to be mandatory in UK from 15 July – The Guardian