This week was meant to be the week that the UK became the first country in the world to bring in legislation to protect children from accessing adult content online.

Currently, anyone can access porn sites, and there have been increasing concerns voiced by organisations like the NSPCC about the damaging effects this can have on children.

Commonly known as the ‘porn block’, this new legislation was set to come into force on July 15th and would have required sites with at least a third of adult content to make users verify their age.

But just weeks before it was set to come into force, it was abruptly drawn to a halt.

So, what happened?

 

An “administration error”

Minister of Culture Jeremy Wright told the House of Commons on the 20th June, “It has come to my attention in recent days that an important notification stage was not undertaken for this policy”. It seems that the UK government didn’t notify the European Commission about the upcoming change in legislation at all, which is obligatory.

This makes it the third time that these law changes have been delayed, having been originally set out in the Digital Economy Act of 2017.

 

A growing concern

It is clear that something needs to be done about protecting ourselves online, whether that be with stronger passwords to guard against data breaches or age verification to protect children from viewing adult content.

The NSPCC’s Head of Child Safety Online Tony Stower has warned, “Every year the NSPCC’s Childline hears from children worried about pornography, and we know that exposure to it is damaging young people’s views about sex, body image and healthy relationships”.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), the UK’s pornography regulator, has issued an Age Verification Certification Standard, which we are really proud to have been awarded just last week. 

But this is voluntary, and not all companies would be too happy to undergo the rigorous levels of compliance required. The new legislation, however, would have given the BBFC the power to fine porn sites that didn’t comply with the rules up to £250,000 or issue total blocks by UK internet service providers. 

 

Opposition

Some opponents have argued that the new age restrictions were a “privacy timebomb” because they would require adult content providers to carry out invasive identity checks on their users. 

However, this doesn’t have to be the case. We’ve developed a new age verification solution, ProveMyAge,  that privately verifies your age in two different ways; either through age estimation or the Yoti app.

 

How ProveMyAge works

Our age estimation technology uses your device’s camera to scan your facial features and requires you to look over 25 so we can be sure you are over 18. No ID document is required and your face scan is immediately deleted after your age is verified. Once your age is verified, you are given access to the website.

The other way to prove your age is by using the Yoti app, which combines your government-issued ID document with your unique facial features to create a secure digital ID that you control with your phone. When you log in to an adult website, you can use the app to scan a QR code on the screen to prove you’re over 18, without giving away your date of birth or other personal information. Again, once your age is verified, you are given access to the website you are trying to access.

 

What does the future look like for porn?

Jeremy Wright has predicted that the legislation will be pushed back by six months. 

This unfortunately means that the internet continues to be completely unregulated by any form of system that protects the individual user. 

Hopefully parliament will take this seriously and we will see the legislation in place before the year is out. In the meantime, we’ll keep fighting to protect people’s identities everywhere.