UK porn block to be delayed indefinitely

20 Jun 2019613 Views

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The UK is expected to announce that its controversial planned ‘porn block’ will be put on ice for the foreseeable.

The secretary of the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, is expected to confirm in parliament that the planned ‘porn block’ will be subject to delays yet again, Sky News reports.

This is the third delay that the legislation, first passed in the 2017 Digital Economy Act, has been subject to. This refutes the previous statement made by the department that set 15 July as the date the block would be put in place.

The first intended date for the ban was for April 2018. At that point it was announced that the UK government would hold off but that the infrastructure to make the ambitious ban possible would be in place by Easter of 2019. When April 2019 came around, however, the government initially declined to give a specific date for roll-out, saying it wanted to take its time to ensure implementation would be effective. Now, it seems, the government has confirmed it will need an indefinite amount of time to do so.

The proposed porn block would require all individuals to verify their age when visiting porn websites. ISP providers would be required to block any porn websites that fail to comply with the legislations, as well as allowing for non-compliant sites to be fined. The British Board of Film Classification has been tipped to oversee the new legislation and mete out suitable punishments for offenders.

The legislation has both been hailed for being the first of its kind in the democratic world and widely derided as utterly unworkable. Privacy rights groups have been adamant that it would be a data protection nightmare, as many of the proposed systems for verifying user ages rely on the user handing over highly sensitive data such as their passports or credit card numbers. Critics have pointed out that this would make the age verification system a lucrative target for cybercriminals and moral vigilantes alike, and could result in a fallout similar to the infamous 2015 Ashley Madison hack.

MindGeek, a company that owns the vast majority of major porn sites such as YouPorn, Pornhub and RedTube, has put forward its own Age ID system as a way to vet ages for users, a move that has raised eyebrows among commentators, with some arguing that this amounts to letting the industry self-regulate on the matter.

Ireland’s plans

In Ireland, the Government has similarly been floating the prospect of attempting to implement a porn ban. During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, Labour leader Brendan Howlin, TD, asked if Ireland had any intention of bringing in a porn block similar to the UK’s, citing the discovery of about 12,000 pornographic images on the phone of Boy A, a defendant in the Ana Kriégel criminal trial who was recently found guilty of her murder and violent sexual assault.

In response, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, said Ireland would consult with the UK government on how the block is working, an action that will presumably also need to be delayed until there is a block to report on.

Homepage of Pornhub website. Image: sharafmaksumov/Depositphotos.

Updated, 12.59pm, 21 June 2019: An earlier version of this article stated that AgeID was an in-house tool of MindGeek’s, which is incorrect. The text has been updated to amend this error.

Eva Short is a Journalist at Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com