surveillance

UK ‘Porn Block’ Law Delayed Until End of 2019

The new government measures aim to protect children from potentially harmful content online.

Magnified image of PornHub logo on a laptop screen
Rebecca Duff
By Rebecca Duff

The UK government recently announced its plans to implement a new system to prevent children from accessing ‘commercial pornographic websites’. This was initially expected to be enforced in April, but the launch has now been delayed until the end of this year.

The UK’s Digital Minister Matt Hancock signed the commencement order for the Digital Economy Act back in 2017. When introduced, it will make age ID checks compulsory for anyone attempting to access any site that offers pornographic content, in an effort to protect children from discovering ‘hardcore’ pornography.

Those wanting to stream porn from a UK-based IP address will have to verify their age using a driver’s license or credit card. They will be redirected to a page where they will have to fill in their details, before being given ‘tokens’ that will be stored in their internet browsers, allowing them to log on to these age-restricted sites. It will also be possible to purchase ‘porn passes’ for various lengths of time from local retailers.

Any websites that refuse to comply can be fined up to £250,000 (roughly $330,600) or face being blocked by UK internet service providers for an undisclosed period of time. Mindgeek, the company that owns several popular adult streaming sites such as Pornhub and YouPorn, has expressed its full support for the proposed law.

A government blog post dated 10 March 2019, however, reveals that age verification is ‘anticipated’ to be enforceable ‘by the end of the year’, which is much later than originally planned. This is to allow the public and the industry time to prepare for and comply with the new regulations.

There has been a great deal of backlash since the proposed law was announced, especially concerning user privacy. Dr Joss Wright, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, outlined some of his concerns, stating: “There’s serious security issues from requiring people to enter their credit card details into untrusted sites,” not to mention that it requires people to “effectively announce the fact they are looking at this material to the credit card authorities”.

A spokesperson from the NSPCC, however, believes that these steps “do not go far enough” to protect children online. While they believe these are “important first steps”, they also call for social networks to provide under-18s “safe accounts with extra protections built in, so that children are kept as safe online as they are in the real world”.