A Freedom of Information request to the DCMS has revealed that porn company MindGeek suggested that the BBFC should potentially block millions of porn sites if they didn't comply with Age Verification requirements outlined in the Digital Economy
MindGeek, who are also developing Age Verification technology, said that the Government's plans to prevent children from seeing pornography would not be effective unless millions of sites could be blocked.
Notes made by the company and sent to the DCMS state:
A greylist of 4M URLs already exists from Sky, but lets assume that's actually much smaller as these URLs will I suspect, be page- level blocks, not TLDs. The regulator should contact them all within that 12 months, explaining that if they do not
demonstrate they are AV ready by the enforcement date then they will be enforced against. "On the enforcement date, all sites on the greylist turn black or white depending upon what they have demonstrated to the regulator.
Corey Price, VP of Pornhub, separately noted:
It is our corporate responsibility as part of the global tech community to promote ethical and responsible behavior. We firmly believe that parents are best placed to police their children's online activity using the plethora of tools already
available in modern operating systems. The law has the potential to send a message to parents that they no longer need to monitor their children's online activity, so it is therefore essential that the Act is robustly enforced.
Despite the law, those seeking adult content can still circumvent age verification using simple proxy/VPN services. Consequently the intent of the legislation is to only protect children who stumble across adult content in an un-protected
environment. There are over 4 million domains containing adult content, and unless sites are enforced against equally, stumbling across adult content will be no harder than at present. If the regulator pursues a proportionate approach we may only
see the Top 50 sites being effected 203 this is wholly unacceptable as the law will then be completely ineffective, and simply discriminate against compliant sites. We are therefore informing, and closely monitoring the development of the
regulations, to be published later this year, to see if they achieve the intended goals of the Act.
MindGeek could stand to gain commercially if competitor websites are blocked from UK visitors, or if the industry takes up their Age Verification product.
Executive Director of Open Rights Group, Jim Killock said:
There is nothing in the Act to stop the BBFC from blocking 4.6 million pornographic websites. The only constraint is cash.
This leaves the BBFC wide open to pressure for mass website blocking without any need for a change in the law.
When giving evidence to the Public Bill Committee
, the chief executive of the British Board of Film Classification, David Austin implied that only tens of sites would be targeted:
We would start with the top 50 and work our way through those, but we would not stop there. We would look to get new data every quarter, for example. As you say, sites will come in and out of popularity. We will keep up to date and focus on those
most popular sites for children.