The UK is just about to introduce internet censorship for porn via onerous and economically unviable
age verification requirements. In what may be a godsend for porn companies, a parliamentary group is considering widening the age verification requirements to a wider range of age restricted products sold on the internet. If a wider group of
companies become involved in the requirements it may encourage a more technically feasible and cost effective solution to be found.
XBIZ writes that online companies that sell e-cigarettes, knives, alcohol and pharmaceuticals, which typically would require identification at brick-and-mortar stores, could be regulated under the law, which focused originally on mandatory age
verification for the consumption of commercial adult content.
London attorney Myles Jackman, who also is the legal director of the Open Rights Group told XBIZ that the likely expansion of the Digital Economy Act to include other products and services sold online beyond pornography is predictably inevitable.
In fact, later this month the London-based Digital Policy Alliance, a cross party group of parliamentarians, plans on addressing the wider application of age-gating to other sectors at a formal meeting on September 19.
XBIZ also notes that the U.K. has yet to appoint an official regulator, although fingers have pointed to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to assume the role. A decision over the appointment will be announced in coming weeks.
UK Government internet censors at the Department of Censorship, Media and Sport have announced a timetable for banning UK adult businesses from operating unless they sign up for currently economically unviable age verification services. Foreign
adult websites will simply end up getting blocked.
Minister of State for Digital Censorship, Matt Hancock MP writes:
Mandatory age verification to view online pornography, a crackdown on ticket bots, and new subtitling requirements for video on demand services are are among the measures being taken forward today as work begins on implementing the new Digital
Digital Minister Matt Hancock has signed the commencement order for the Digital Economy Act 2017 which achieved Royal Assent in April. The Act places the consumer at its heart and will be a vital piece of legislation in making sure the rights and
interests of the individual are protected and strengthened in an increasingly digital society.
Following the signing of the commencement order today, work will now begin on the following areas:
introducing a new age verification process for accessing online pornography, expected to be in place by April 2018, a milestone in the Government's work to make the UK the safest place in the world for children to be online
requiring catch-up TV and video on demand services to provide subtitling and audio description on their programmes
cracking down on ticket touts by making it a criminal offence for those that misuse bot technology to sweep up tickets
measures to improve digital connectivity for consumers right across the UK, cutting the costs for new infrastructure and simplifying planning rules which will see greater coverage in some of the hardest to reach places in the UK
Comment: Age verification plans put web users' privacy at risk
Open Rights Group has responded to the announcement that the Government has initiated plans for the age verification of porn websites.
Executive Director Jim Killock said:
Age verification could lead to porn companies building databases of the UK's porn habits, which could be vulnerable to Ashley Madison style hacks.
The Government has repeatedly refused to ensure that there is a legal duty for age verification providers to protect the privacy of web users.
There is also nothing to ensure a free and fair market for age verification. We are concerned that the porn company MindGeek will become the Facebook of age verification, dominating the UK market. They would then decide what privacy risks or
profiling take place for the vast majority of UK citizens.
Age verification risks failure as it attempts to fix a social problem with technology. In their recent manifestos, all three main political parties called for compulsory sex and relationship education in schools. Sex education would genuinely
protect young people, as it would give them information and context.
Elspeth Howe has tabled yet another internet censorship bill planning to define any sex work rejected by the BBFC to be 'extreme
pornography'. The first reading of the bill took place in the House of Lords on 10th July 2017. The bill reads:
A Bill to Amend the definition of extreme pornography in the Digital Economy Act 2017.
1 Amendment of the definition of extreme pornography
(1) The Digital Economy Act 20 17 is amended as follows.
(2) In section 15 (meaning of "pornographic material"), in subsection (1), omit paragraphs (g) to (i). (3) In section 22 (meaning of "extreme pornographic material"), for subsections (1) to (4) substitute--
"(1) In this section "extreme pornographic material" means any of the following--
(a) the whole or part of a video work--
(i) if it is reasonable to assume from its nature that the video work was produced solely or principally for the purposes of sexual arousal, and
(ii) if the video works authority has determined the video work not to be suitable for a classification certificate to be issued in respect of it;
(b) material whose nature is such that it is reasonable to assume--
(i) that it was produced solely or principally for the purposes of sexual arousal, and
(ii) that the video works authority would determine that a video work including it was not suitable for a classification certificate to be issued in respect of it."