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.

For more information on age verification and the Digital Economy Act, you can find the key facts laid our Data Protection Officer here.

 

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. Simple and secure age verification already exists to ensure that websites can confirm which of their customers are adults.

We have developed two secure and anonymous age verification solutions called ProveMyAge, which offers adults access to restricted content through either using our anonymous age estimation technology or our Digital ID app.

 

How ProveMyAge works

Our age estimation technology uses your device’s camera to scan your facial features. No ID document is required but for us to be sure you are over 18, our technology requires you to look over 25. Once your age is verified your face scan is immediately deleted and you are given access to the site, completely anonymously.

The other way to prove your age is by using the Yoti app. To create your secure Digital ID, we ask you to upload an image of your government-issued ID document which we combine with your unique facial features. Your personal information is encrypted and stored separately in our database so everytime so you are anonymous and can’t be tracked. When you log in to an adult website, you can use the app to scan a QR code. Your app will tell the site that you’re over 18, without giving away your date of birth or other personal information and you’re given access to the site.

 

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 and without protections in place for harmful content for children.

We hope parliament will take this issue seriously and we see the legislation in place before the year is out.  In the meantime, we will keep working to protect people’s privacy.