NEWS

Online Porn Age Verification Could Mean Poorer Brits Are Prevented From Watching

Around 30% of voting age Brits don't have a credit card.

17/07/2017 14:48 | Updated 17 July 2017
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From next year, users will be required to verify their age before accessing online porn

Brits with bad credit could be prevented from accessing free porn online under new government rules, campaigners have warned.

Those watching online pornography in the UK will need to prove they are 18 or older, ministers announced on Monday.

Users accessing porn will be required to complete stringent age verification checks, which websites will be forced to install by April 2018. 

People may be asked to enter credit card details, in the same way gambling websites currently demand.

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Digital Minister Matt Hancock has launched a nine-month countdown to introduce age checks for online porn

But a leading campaigner on sex and censorship has said this could mean those with poor credit ratings are prevented from viewing free porn altogether.

Jerry Barnett, author of Porn Panic, told HuffPost UK: “This will certainly mean that many adults lose access to perfectly legal content.

“A significant proportion of the population has no access to a credit card, for many, that is due to poor credit rating. 

“This law is the culmination of years of lobbying by a wide variety of state and private interests, and will fundamentally change the internet in the UK and possibly globally.

“For the first time, the government has the power to block websites, en-masse, without court orders. This is a first in a democracy.”

This will certainly mean that many adults lose access to perfectly legal content.

There were 31.8 million credit card holders in the UK last year, according to the UK Cards Association, meaning around 30% of the voting-age population did not have a credit card.

The new rules, part of the Digital Economy Act, are part of a drive to make the internet safer for children.

And websites which don’t comply will be targeted in a ‘follow the money’ approach - whereby firms supplying advertising and payment technology will be forced to withdraw services.

A regulatory body will be chosen to oversee and enforce the new rules. This could be the British Board of Film Classification, but this is yet to be confirmed.

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One proposal will see users asked to enter credit card details to access free online pornography

Digital Minister Matt Hancock launched the nine-month countdown in a written statement to the House of Commons.

He said: “All this means that while we can enjoy the freedom of the web, the UK will have the most robust internet child protection measures of any country in the world.”

Supporters of the changes said the move would make the web safer for children.

Will Gardner, from charity Childnet, said: “Steps like this to help restrict access, alongside the provision of free parental controls and education are key.”

But opponents have aired their concerns over the proposals. 

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, said: “Using credit cards for age verification would be a seriously flawed solution that would undermine credit card fraud prevention.

“In addition, it could be easy for young people to get hold of a credit card, rendering the whole process pointless.”

Computer experts have said the use of credit cards to verify age present numerous security risks.

Christiaan Beek, the lead scientist and principal engineer at McAfee, told HuffPost UK: “If porn companies don’t have the correct security measures in place, this could result in a hack that not only leaves users red-faced but also out of pocket.

“If credit card details were to land in the wrong hands, the criminals are likely to do two things. The first is of course, financial gain. The second could have arguably more detrimental and embarrassing consequences - blackmail.

“They could use the fact the user was subscribed to such websites as the perfect weapon to hold them to ransom for far more than what they have on that particular account.”

But Corey Price, Vice-President of website Pornhub, said the firm was confident that credit cards would not be the sole method of verifying a user’s age.

“Regulations allow for many methods of verification, [such as] mobile phone, passport, driving licence, credit reference data,” he said in a statement sent to HuffPost UK.

And fears have also been raised about the speed with which a new regulator will now be required to act.

Dr Victoria Nash, an author of a report commissioned before the law was introduced, said: “The idea you can get a regulatory body up and running in that timeframe seems extraordinary to me.”

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