New Law Would Require UK Porn Sites to Legally Verify Users’ Age

The measure is part of the Online Safety Bill


Drafted legislation in the United Kingdom would require pornography websites to verify the ages of their users.

The measure is part of the Online Safety Bill which is expected to be introduced in parliament sometime in the upcoming months. The bill aims to protect underage users from explicit material.

To verify a user’s age, the websites could verify whether or not the user owns a credit card or partner with a third-party service to confirm their age.

Failure to comply with the measure could result in a fine equal to 10% of the website’s global turnover.

Websites may also be blocked from internet accessibility in the United Kingdom by regulator Ofcom. The heads of the websites could even be found criminally liable if they fail to cooperate.

The government previously dismissed privacy concerns regarding Ofcom, saying the regulator does not store or process data that is unrelated to verifying someone’s age.

“Parents deserve peace of mind that their children are protected online from seeing things no child should see,” said Digital Economy Minister Chris Philp in the measure’s announcement.

His agency added, “The onus will be on the companies themselves to decide how to comply with their new legal duty. The bill does not mandate the use of specific solutions as it is vital that it is flexible to allow for innovation and the development and use of more effective technology in the future.”

“Studies show that half of 11- to 13-year-olds have seen pornography at some point,” reports the BBC.

Children who view porn are at greater risk of not reporting predators or abuse. Child development experts have also said viewing porn can give children an unhealthy understanding of sex and consent.

According to a 2021 poll from the nonprofit CARE, 81% of adults in the UK agree with the following statement: “The government should implement age verification to protect children from all online pornography.”

Additionally, 79.5% agree that online access to pornography should be limited to those over the age of 18.

A similar proposal was dropped in 2019. The “universal porn blocker” would have required commercial porn-providing websites to verify users’ ages or be blocked by internet service providers.

Critics pointed out that underage users were able to circumvent such restrictions by using virtual private networks, disguising their locations, or by using platforms like Twitter or Reddit, which have pornography but are not prohibited under the law.

The law, which was proposed in 2018, excluded porn websites that did not make money from advertisements and therefore were not commercial.

The newest rendition of the internet safety rules was announced by the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) on Safer Internet Day. The Online Safety Bill was first introduced in May of 2021.

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