New laws announced by British Government.

From 2018, porn websites serving the UK may have to make sure that its users are of an adult age, under new laws announced by the current British government.

While the UK government, like many others the world over, have discussed the idea of regulating pornography websites for many years, all that talk may now soon become law in the UK.

In May of this year, the UK government outlined its plans to age-check porn users in the Digital Economy Bill. While the bill covers a multitude of different aspects of the internet, the one that has so far gathered all the headlines is the one that will force websites with adult content to verify that its viewers are at least 18 years of age.

Coming to a computer screen near you soon? Probably, if you live in the UK…

Regulators

The Digital Minister, Matt Hancock, announced the new rules will come into effect from next April. To enforce the new law, which if it passes both houses of the legislature in the UK, a new ‘porn’ regulator will be given the power to block porn websites that fail to prove they are denying access to under-18s; for instance by having users supply their credit card details and utilise the same type of age verification software that online gambling sites currently use.

But that said, there are still no details on just how the new laws, or the new regulator will function in practice. Mr Hancock said: “All this means that while we can enjoy the freedom of the web, the UK will have the most robust internet child protection measures of any country in the world.”

And the award for the best UK online Porn regulator goes to…

Perhaps the most likely UK body to administer the new regulations is the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), (not to be confused with the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation]) which already decides age limits for films. The BBFC once used to rate the suitability of video and computer games for different age groups, but this is now done by the Pan European Game Information or PEGI’ now does this.

Split decisions

Of course, opinion on the Digital Economy Bill and its effects has been split. The Open Rights Group warned that age verification databases could potentially be used to track the porn habits of millions of UK citizens, leaving them vulnerable to embarrassment and blackmail should their information be hacked.

Open Rights cited the now infamous fallout from the 2015 Ashley Madison hack as part of their argument. could allow porn companies. “The Government has repeatedly refused to ensure that there is a legal duty for age verification providers to protect the privacy of web users,” said executive director Jim Killock.

On the other hand, the UK based National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) highlighted their own 2016 report that stated online pornography could affect and damage children’s development and decision-making abilities. The report also claimed that online porn had been seen by 65% of 15-16-year olds and 48% of 11-16-year olds.
A spokesman for the charity said watching online porn could be “deeply damaging” to young people. In that respect, the NSPCC welcomed the new Digital Economy Bill, claimed the new measures did not go far enough, and stated that there was a need for additional protection for under-18s on social media.