Porn Block Ditched By Government After Repeated Delays

Nicky Morgan's department has confirmed the Digital Economy Act is being shelved.

Proposed legislation to implement age verification on pornography websites in the UK, known as the ‘porn block’, has been scrapped.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirmed to HuffPost UK on Wednesday that part three of the Digital Economy Act (2017) has now been shelved.

The proposed system would have required users to prove they were over 18 by uploading personal information such as passport or driving license details, or credit card information, to third-party verification systems.

However, the DCMS said it remains committed to protecting underage users online with the implementation of the Online Harms White Paper, and expects age verification tools to still play a key role.

In a written statement, Morgan said: “The Digital Economy Act objectives will be delivered through our proposed online harms regulatory regime.

“This course of action will give the regulator discretion on the most effective means for companies to meet their duty of care.”

The Online Harms White Paper is still in a draft stage – in the Queen’s Speech on Monday, Boris Johnson’s government said it was still in consultation, and there is no proposed date for implementation.

Labour’s Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Tom Watson MP, said of the annoucement: “Mistakes, mishaps and multiple delays have characterised this government’s attempts to introduce Age Verification.

“The government has now dropped the pretence and admitted it isn’t going to implement it after all. This whole process has been a shambles, and the government must declare how much public money has been spent on this failed policy.”

The start date for the ‘porn block’ was postponed on three separate occasions because of implementation issues and criticism from privacy campaigners.

The last public statement on the legislation was made by former culture secretary Jeremy Wright in June, when he said the proposed start date of July 15 was to be delayed.

This was because his department failed to notify the European Commission of key details. Wright was insistent this latest delay did not mean the policy would be scrapped altogether.

Shadow Voter Engagement Minister Cat Smith called the process a “shambles”.

The failed summer launch date was already late after initial plans to roll out in April 2018 were pushed back to April 2019, and then again to July 2019 and then put on hold in June for a proposed six-months.

Wright encouraged porn providers to voluntarily engage with the scheme sooner than the legal start date.

If the system had gone ahead it would have required websites such as PornHub and RedTube to direct users to a verification platform before allowing them access.

But this process was being left in the hands of porn companies to implement.