The UK ‘porn block’ has been delayed yet again

1 Apr 20193.07k Views

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Pornhub homepage. Image: Pe3check/Depositphotos

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Ever since the UK government passed a ‘porn ban’, it has been dogged with controversy and is now subject to even more delays.

The UK’s controversial porn block, which would require all individuals to verify their age when visiting porn websites, has yet again suffered delays due to complications arising from its implementation.

The ban was first passed two years ago as part of the 2017 Digital Economy Act and was initially expected to be enacted by April 2018. It was delayed at that point, with the UK minister for digital and culture, Margot James, projecting it would be in force “by Easter of [2019]”.

Yet one year later, the UK government has declined to confirm a date for roll-out, saying that it was “taking the time to get the implementation of this policy right and to ensure it is effective”.

The UK government has not provided its own age verification system and has instead allowed porn companies to decide for themselves how best to vet the age of web visitors. The proposed system would require broadband ISPs to block any porn websites that fail to comply with new legislation. It would also allow for non-compliant sites to be fined.

MindGeek, a company that owns an assortment of major pornography providers such as Pornhub and RedTube, has said it will make its age verification service, called AgeID, available in the UK once the ban is in place. This service, which has been available in Germany since 2015, will use third parties to access data such as credit cards, passports and driving licences to verify age. Questions have also been raised about MindGeek’s ability to collect other identifying data during the verification process.

The ban has been pilloried by data and privacy rights advocates who argue that the potential for breaches is massive. Speaking to Sky News, Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group chalked up the consistent delays to these concerns over privacy.

“When they [the UK government] consulted about the shape of age verification last summer, they were surprised to find that nearly everyone who wrote back to them in that consultation said this was a privacy disaster and they need to make sure people’s data doesn’t get leaked out.

“Because if it does, it could be that people are outed, have their relationships break down, their careers could be damaged, even for looking at legal material.”

Representatives from AgeID maintain that the system is totally safe as no data is actually stored. They also point to the proposed ‘porn pass’, which people of age could purchase from newsagents as a non-invasive alternative.

The fact that the porn companies themselves are being allowed to essentially self-regulate is another major argument frequently made by detractors. Many have gone so far as to say outright that the ban will not work, citing a variety of reasons ranging from the sheer volume of porn websites on the internet to the risk that it would encourage illicit activity.

Though the legislation has been passed, it seems condemned to exist in limbo for the foreseeable. If the recent rumblings of the UK political sphere are any indication, however, near-indefinite delays are not beyond the realm of possibility.

Pornhub homepage. Image: Pe3check/Depositphotos

Eva Short is a Careers reporter at Siliconrepublic.com

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