UK Porn Age Verification Laws: Shafted For Good?

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With poor planning being blamed, the UK may be about to abandon its revolutionary plans to introduce mandatory age-checks for porn sites.

As we reported back in May, the UK was due to introduce new measures on 15th July to block porn sites from being used by minors. However, with just a few weeks until this controversial scheme is due to be implemented, there are yet further delays expected. After months of legal wrangling and aborted plans of exactly how the ban will be policed, some sources are even reporting that the verification laws will be shelved ‘indefinitely’.

The plans were originally due to take effect in April 2018 but were put on hold to take into consideration the objections raised by both  the porn industry and privacy advocates.



The proposed verification laws are the first of their kind anywhere in the world and would effectively require all sites where the primary content is pornographic in nature to restrict access to the under 18s. This would be achieved via a third-party verification system whereby users would need to acquire a digital token or an over-the-counter authentication code. Under the plans, those website who failed to implement the rules would be blocked from providing content within the UK.

uk porn ban data privacy concerns

Data privacy remains a huge concern for the UK’s porn ban scheme. Image via Flickr.

It comes as no great shock to most observers that the department tasked with overseeing the introduction of this legislation has reported yet another delay. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced a climb down of the UK’s ‘porn ban’ proposals on 20th June reporting an ‘admin oversight’ as the primary reason, However, this delay follows serious concerns being raised over data privacy that are still to be addressed.

Though the idea behind the legislation is not without support, the methods of implementing such a scheme have been flawed from the start.

At its heart, the verification laws require individuals to provide highly sensitive and personal information such as copies of passports, driving licenses and credit cards to third party companies like MindGeek or age-verification services.

The concerns not only cover the potential of data hacking for the purposes of identity fraud but, more importantly to some, the right to privacy when it comes to the kind of porn we are watching.

Academics and cyber security experts are also all in agreement that the scale of information that is required to be exchanged could hand companies like MindGeek (the owners of Pornhub) with an exceptional amount of powerful and valuable personal data. With such a system in place, the plans open up the very real prospect of potential blackmail cases as hackers track the porn habits of UK citizens.

uk porn ban data security

Sharing sensitive data on personal porn viewing habits has raised alarm bells. Image via Pixabay.

Aside from the potential for violations of privacy and breaches in data security, the UK Government’s plans to prevent minors from accessing porn content falls far too short by these proposals, according to some anti-porn campaigners.

The verification laws have been criticized from the off by not being robust or comprehensive enough to actually achieve their aim. Younger internet users could still readily access pornographic content via platforms like Reddit, Twitter and Tumblr as these sites are not covered by the ban; only those sites where more than a third of their content is considered ‘adult’ would be required to adhere to this legislation.

Not only that but users who have access to a Virtual Private Network (or, VPN) can easily bypass the checks put in place to verify your age.

To top it all off, the British public have been woefully kept ignorant of the implementation of these proposals and the deadline of 15th July would have caused a great deal of confusion. A survey conducted by YouGov back in March 2019, revealed that three-quarters (76%) of the population were unaware of the scheme.

All in all, the scheme’s introduction has been far from plain sailing so far and the latest reports suggest that implementation will be delayed by at least six months. The official reason given for this have been blamed on the European Commission. An ‘administrative oversight’, the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Wright, announced to the House of Commons that plans had not been submitted to the E.U.

uk government announces delay to the uk porn ban

The DCMS has blamed an ‘administrative error’ for the delay. Image via Wikimedia.

Wright was quick to add that, whilst the legislation had been delayed again and that the checks were not mandatory yet, responsible providers of porn could still roll out their age-verification mechanisms on a voluntary basis.

And this is one of the problems that these badly designed plans have left us with; an industry that is partially geared up for age-checks but where there is no legislation to enforce it, regulate it or monitor it. Not only that but an audience who are largely unaware of the proposed changes nor (probably) of their delay.

As a result, some porn sites may well become unavailable from 15th July 2019 and there are no guarantees that the ban will ever come to into force. Companies like MindGeek will no doubt be cursing the UK’s government for the efforts they will have taken to comply with these changes only to find that they may not be required at all.

Will the UK’s porn ban come into effect at all? Only time will tell but, if it does, then we predict a serious backlash when those people who aren’t aware of the change in law find they are locked out of their regular dose of porn browsing. Watch this space…..while you can.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons and  Kurious/Pixabay.

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