The RPC, which undertook an investigation into the proposals, has determined the UK government’s plans to enforce age verification on porn websites “fit for purpose”, meaning that internet users across the country may be forced to provide ID in order to access pornography as of April 2019.

In order to prove that they are over the age of 18 porn-seekers will be required to hand over credit card details or scans of government-issued ID papers.

The changes come under the Digital Economy Act of 2017, which states that commercial providers of porn need to provide age checks on their websites to stop children from seeing explicit images and videos.

Originally due in April 2018, the House of Lords finally approved the changes in December 2018 after delays due to the technical challenges of regulating the thousands of websites involved.

Tech magazine Wired has branded the plan as “one of the worst ideas ever”, stating that it “won’t work”, “risks censorship”, and poses a threat to online security and privacy. It has also described it as a “massive database of everyone’s tastes in porn.”

Wired makes the point that those under the age of 18 could easily access restricted adult content by using a VPN, which puts their online identity in a country unaffected by the UK law.

It also claims that the agewall will push some minors into seeking pornography from less secure sources, including websites infested with malware or even the Dark Web.

Privacy campaigners at the Open Rights Group have echoed security concerns, with a focus on the age-verification system itself, stating: “They should halt the scheme until privacy regulation is in place.”

In addition to privacy worries, financial burdens are another argument in opposition to the change in the law. According to the report published by the RPC, the estimated cost of the proposed age verification system to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), which has been appointed to enforce it, will be roughly £4.45 million.

The report also says that ISPs will incur significant costs due to the new law requirement, but there has been no detailed investigation of the potential costs for pornography providers and advertisers.

With India’s most recent #PornBan still fresh, could the UK be heading in a similar direction involving heavier internet restrictions and censorship?

Lawyer and campaigner Myles Jackman believes so, as he commented: “Pornography is the canary in the coal mine of free speech: it is the first freedom to die. If this assault on liberty is allowed to go unchallenged, other freedoms will fall as a consequence.”