The UK has delayed its online porn block. Here’s what we know

Wired 12 March 2018
Family First Comment: “The (UK) government will introduce an age-verification requirement for all pornographic websites and people wanting to use them will have to prove they are over 18.

Age verification of all pornographic content was supposed to be mandatory from April 2018. But the plans have now been pushed back to later this year.

The government has delayed its planned introduction of an age-verification requirement for all pornographic websites until later this year.

The plans were initially announced in July 2017 with Matt Hancock, the then minister of state for digital and culture, saying the pornography block would be fully in place” by April 2018. Since then the government has been attempting to formalise the process of how websites should apply an age-verification system and establish a regulator for doing so.

Confirmation of the delay, hidden in a government press release about 5G, reveals that “age verification will be enforceable by the end of the year.” No new date has been set, nor have further details been announced about how such a technologically challenging system will be implemented.

Critics have hit back saying the changes will be dangerous to internet freedoms in the UK. In 2017, Jerry Barnett, the founder of campaign group Sex & Censorship told WIRED that the legislation would “fundamentally change the internet in the UK and possibly globally”.

The changes for online pornography are being introduced under the Digital Economy Act. For the first time, he added, the government would have the power to block websites, en-masse, without court orders. “This is a first in a democracy,” he continued. “Although this appears to be just about protecting children from porn, it isn’t. It will block any site that doesn’t comply with strict UK content rules.”

How age verification will be deployed

There are multiple ways that age verification could work under the new plans, but the government is very much leaving this up to the industry to decide. It has been mooted that a system that uses credit card authorisation, such as gambling websites do, could be introduced.

MindGeek is one of the companies developing a “solution” for age verification on pornography websites. On its website it delivers a “world-class portfolio of entertainment experiences and IT solutions”. It does not mention it owns some of the world’s biggest porn sites, including Pornhub.

For age verification, MindGeek has developed AgeID. The company says it expects to sign-up 25 million people in the UK its system. According to Sky News, people will be able to login to AgeID with an email address and password, then use a third party system to check their age. AgeID will log which pornography websites are visited and store them.

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