UK porn block to take force from July as ministers plough on with controversial policy

Posted On: 
17th April 2019

Ministers have announced a new summer launch date for their controversial plans to implement new age-verification measures on pornography websites in the UK.

The UK will be the first country in the world to implement the measures
Credit: 
PA

Anyone seeking access to adult websites will be forced to verify their age from 15 July. 

The controversial policy, which was initially set to launch in April 2018, has been beset by delays amid a backlash from critics concerned about privacy implications.

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The policy will force all commercial providers of porn to carry out “robust” age-verification checks, or face a UK-wide ban.

The British Board of Film Classification – which provides age certificates for films – will be responsible for regulating the policy, which could see payment providers urged to pull services from websites which fail to comply.

But ministers were left red-faced earlier today after an email announcing the policy failed to censor the email addresses of hundreds of journalists and campaigners, provoking fresh questions about the scheme's data protection practices.

UK internet users will be forced to verify their age using their mobile phone or by uploading a copy of their driver’s license or passport to the new age verification system.

Consumers will also have the option to purchase so-called “porn passes” from local shops for £4.99 for a single device.

Ministers hope targeting sites primarily aimed at hosting adult content will protect children from accessing hardcore material on the internet.

But major social media sites, including those which prominently host pornography, such as Reddit, Imgur and Twitter will be exempt from the scheme.

Announcing the latest roll-out date, Digital Minister Margot James, said: "Adult content is currently far too easy for children to access online.

“The introduction of mandatory age-verification is a world-first, and we've taken the time to balance privacy concerns with the need to protect children from inappropriate content.

"We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this."

The announcement has prompted a major backlash from privacy groups who are concerned that information about users private viewing habits could be the target of data leaks or hacks.

'DATA LEAKS'

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, warned privacy breaches could "provoke suicides" or lead to people's sexuality being revealed against their will.

“The government needs to compel companies to enforce privacy standards. The idea that they are ‘optional’ is dangerous and irresponsible.

“Having some age verification that is good and other systems that are bad is unfair and a scammer’s paradise – of the government’s own making."

He added: “Data leaks could be disastrous. And they will be the government’s own fault.

“The government needs to shape up and legislate for privacy before their own policy results in people being outed, careers destroyed or suicides being provoked.”

The comments come as DCMS were forced to apologise after they failed to correctly 'blind copy' hundreds of journalists and campaigners emails into the press release, leaving their private information exposed.

A spokesperson for the deparment blamed the blunder on "human error".

They said: "In sending a news release to journalists an administrative, human error meant email addresses could be seen by others. DCMS takes data privacy extremely seriously and we apologise to those affected."