Government Pushes UK Porn Websites To Enforce Age Checks

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Ministers will take further steps to enforce age verification on porn websites, thanks to the Digital Economy Act passed through Parliament earlier this year.

Under new powers within The Act, a regulator will block porn websites that fail to prove they’re denying access to under-18s.

Currently, many adult websites require visitors to tick a box to confirm that they are over 18, but the new laws will require websites to implement much more “robust” checks.

Although The Act does not specify what these checks must be, concerns have been raised that users may be required to type in their credit card details to gain access to the websites in question. There is also speculation that links to the electoral register may also be implemented.

The Open Rights Group has warned that age verification checks could enable porn companies to build up databases of UK users’ porn habits.

The Group’s executive director Jim Killock warned that the new rules could lead to a repeat of the 2015 Ashley Madison scandal. The scandal saw hackers leak data from a dating website created for people seeking extra-marital affairs.

He 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.”

However, the move has been welcomed by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) which warns that young people can be “deeply damaged” by watching porn.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Watching online pornography can have a deeply damaging effect on young people, their behaviour and their understanding of healthy relationships.

“Robust age verification and regulation for online pornography are important first steps in keeping children safe online.”

Digital economy minister Matt Hancock has signed an order allowing the regulator to introduce the new measures from April next year.

The new Digital Economy Act includes a wealth of new changes. It demands that catch-up TV services provide subtitling and audio description options and suggests it’ll become a criminal offence to use bot technology to purchase concert tickets to resell at a profit.

Matt Hancock said: “The Digital Economy Act is about building a strong, safe and connected economy. It will secure better support for consumers, better protection for children on the internet, and underpin a radical transformation of Government services.”