Government abandons porn-gate age verification scheme

October 17, 2019 | 10:35

Tags: #adult-entertainment #age-verification #censorship #jim-killock #nicky-morgan #porn

Companies: #open-rights-group #uk-government

The UK Government has officially abandoned plans to introduce mandatory visitor age verification for adult websites, long derided as a privacy nightmare by critics.

The idea of a Government-mandated age verification system for visitors to adult entertainment sites was floated back in February 2016 following the election of a Conservative government. Originally, the scheme - which would see users able to apply to a range of age verification services online or purchase what quickly become known as 'porn passes' in person, with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) certifying that said age verification systems are trustworthy - was due to come into play in April 2019. April arrived, but the age verification system did not, with a last-minute delay pushing its launch to July.

It is now, you may have noticed, October - very much past July - and you still haven't been asked to sign up to an age verification service in order to get your rocks off. You won't in the future, either: The scheme has been officially scrapped, much to the joy of Onanists and privacy advocates throughout the nation - the latter having pointed out that giving neither private companies nor the Government an easy means of tying an individual's identity to their private peccadilloes is a great idea.

'The Government has concluded that this objective of coherence will be best achieved through our wider online harms proposals and, as a consequence, will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography,' admitted Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nicky Morgan in a written statement. 'The Digital Economy Act objectives will therefore be delivered through our proposed online harms regulatory regime. This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care. As currently drafted, the Digital Economy Act does not cover social media platforms.

'The government’s commitment to protecting children online is unwavering. Adult content is too easily accessed online and more needs to be done to protect children from harm. We want to deliver the most comprehensive approach to keeping children safe online and recognised in the Online Harms White Paper the role that technology can play in keeping all users, particularly children, safe. We are committed to the UK becoming a world-leader in the development of online safety technology and to ensure companies of all sizes have access to, and adopt, innovative solutions to improve the safety of their users. This includes age verification tools and we expect them to continue to play a key role in protecting children online.'

The move marks the abandonment of a key election pledge by the Conservatives, but has been cautiously welcomed by privacy campaigners. 'Age verification for porn as currently legislated would cause huge privacy problems if it went ahead,' claims Open Rights Group executive director Jim Killock. 'We are glad the government has stepped back from creating a privacy disaster, that would lead to blackmail scams and individuals being outed for the sexual preferences. However it is still unclear what the government does intend to do, so we will remain vigilant to ensure that new proposals are not just as bad, or worse.'


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