What do new age rules over online pornography mean?

Internet, News

Tighter controls on pornography websites are due to come into force from July, in a bid to prevent children from easily accessing adult content.

The long-awaited and controversial measures are said to be a world first, which will be overseen by a regulator, but concerns have been raised about how it will work.

Why is the Government introducing age verification to pornography websites?

The Government wants to make the UK one of the safest places to be online, in particular, protecting young people from stumbling upon pornographic websites.

How will the age verification measures work?

People trying to access pornography websites will have to prove that they are an adult before they are able to go any further.

Several options to verify that a user is 18 and over will be on offer by third party companies, such as using digital ID apps in which people can send copies of their ID showing they are of age.

Another option put forward is buying a card over the counter in a shop, where the shop owner will be required to verify the person’s age in the same way they do when selling alcohol and cigarettes.

A voluntary certification scheme, known as the Age-verification Certificate (AVC), will be available to assess the data security standards of the companies that provide these solutions.

Will this affect all pornography?

The Government is targeting websites and apps that offer pornography on a “commercial basis”, which includes any pornographic material made available free of charge where a person making it available “receives a payment, reward or other benefit in connection with making it available on the internet”.

However, the measures will only cover websites where more than a third of content is pornographic. Social media and search engines will be unaffected.

Pornography through search engines and social media will not be affected (Yui Mok/PA)

Who will regulate it?

The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification), the regulator responsible for classification of movies, has been tasked with overseeing regulation of pornography websites.

What powers will the regulator have?

The BBFC says it will have the power to contact social media and search engines to request that non-compliant websites be removed from their services, as well as asking payment providers to withdraw and even asking internet service providers to block their websites entirely.

However, it stresses that blocking a site is not the main objective, and will allow non-compliant websites “enough time” to comply.

Pornography age verification measures
Supporters say the move is needed to better protect children, but critics are concerned about user privacy (Peter Byrne/PA)

When will it come into force?

The measures are due to come into force from July 15 2019.

Will teenagers be able to find a way around the restrictions?

The BBFC admits that the changes are “not a silver bullet” and that “some determined teenagers will find ways to access pornography”.

In a recent survey, almost one in five parents (18%) said they expect children will be able to circumvent the restrictions, though the majority of parents (69%) indicated that they think the new measures will make a difference.

Chris Price
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