Man watching porn on a laptop

Government puts porn filter plan to bed

Image credit: Dreamstime

Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan has told Parliament that the government will not continue with plans to introduce an age verification system to access adult content online.

Age gates for online porn were intended to be introduced in April 2018, but the plans have been beset by multiple delays on account of technical challenges, administrative errors and concerns about enforcement. Under Part 3 of the 2017 Digital Economy Act, all adult content providers would be forced to verify the age of visitors to their sites or face restrictions in the UK (such as being blocked by ISPs), as enforced by the British Board of Film Classification.

Brits who want to continue watching porn online would be required to buy a ‘porn pass’ from a shop or use traditional forms of ID (passport, credit card or driving license) to verify that they are over the age of 18.

In an unpublicised written statement to the House of Commons today, Morgan confirmed that while the government had an “unwavering” commitment to children’s online safety, the plans to enforce age verification for online porn would not be pursued.

“The government has concluded that this objective of coherence will be best achieved through our wider online harms proposals and, as a consequence, will not be commencing Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 concerning age verification for online pornography,” Morgan said.

She added: “Adult content is too easily accessed online and more needs to be done to protect children form harm. We want to deliver the most comprehensive approach to keeping children safe online. We are committed to the UK becoming a world leader in the development of online safety technology and to ensure companies of all sizes have access to, and adopt, innovative solutions to improve the safety of their users. This includes age verification tools and we expect them to continue to play a key role in protecting children online.”

The government will instruct the new online regulator to ensure that online companies take responsibility for the issue as part of their ‘duty of care’ for users. Morgan said that this “will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care”.

The planned regulator, described in April’s Online Harms White Paper, will be responsible for coordinating regulations aimed at reducing online harms, such as terrorist propaganda, child sexual exploitation, disinformation campaigns, cyberstalking, revenge pornography and cyber bullying.

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