UK government postpones plans for controversial age checks on porn sites

13 Mar 2018270 Views

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Over-18s sign. Image: chrisdorney/Shutterstock

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The start date for the new UK age verification law for adult sites has been pushed back to the end of 2018.

With just two weeks remaining before a new age identification law for porn sites was to come into effect, the UK government has decided to wait until the end of the year to enforce it.

The plan was first announced in July 2017 and was immediately criticised by both the adult entertainment industry and privacy experts. The law would ostensibly prevent people under the age of 18 from accessing pornography, but privacy advocates raised worries around the potential for the creation of a hackable database containing the pornography viewing habits of UK residents.

Digital rights organisation Open Rights Group’s legal director, Myles Jackman, described a hypothetical “treasure trove of private information” and questioned whether the public could trust the government with their data again in the event of a breach.

The department for digital, culture, media and sport in the UK said the delay would allow the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) more time to draft and consult with adult-content creators in order to create better, more comprehensive guidance.

Critics had already voiced their disappointment in the previously tight deadline given to the project – the BBFC was only approved as the regulator in early February, with many in the adult industry saying there was precious little time to ensure they were compliant.

The consultation will begin later in March and it is hoped that the guidance created will provide a clearer picture of how the BBFC plans to monitor the situation, as well as more information on the appeals process and what blocking those sites that are non-compliant will actually involve.

Competition for AgeID

The delay in enforcing the new law may also mean that AgeID – the age verification system owned by Pornhub parent company MindGeek – could have some competitors by the time the end of 2018 rolls around.

A government spokesperson said: “We are making age verification compulsory for commercial porn sites, as part of our work to make the internet a safer place for children. But we need to take the time to make sure we get it right if it’s going to work, and it will come into effect later this year.”

Once the rule does apply, non-compliant sites will be looking at potential fines of up to £250,000.

Over-18s sign. Image: chrisdorney/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam is a writer covering all manner of business and tech subjects

editorial@siliconrepublic.com