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Why porn is about to screw you

By Chris Dawson January 22, 2020 - 11:47 am

Having abandoned Age Verification that was due to be enforced last Summer, the government is now once again reviewing how to protect children from inappropriate content. This hasn’t gone down to well as many tech companies had invested in porn blocking solutions with age verification built in and they’re now taking legal action to require the Government to reverse its decision to abandon the law requiring age checks for porn sites.

The Age Verification Scheme was originally passed by Parliament as part of the Digital Economy Act in 2017 and was initially announced by ministers to be coming into force by Easter 2018. It was first delayed until July of last year, and then a further delay was announced after the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport failed to complete EU processes required for new regulations.

The Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety which includes the NSPCC, Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society have also expressed support for the legal action brought by developers to try and get the Government to implement the new law. The case argues that while the Secretary of State for Culture was given the discretion to decide on when to introduce the law, she did not have the legal authority to simply ignore the law and abandon it altogether. They say that when Parliament passes a law, the government cannot simply ignore it.

“Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety supports this judicial review of the Government’s decision, announced in October 2019, in respect of the implementation of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017. If a judicial review is the only way of getting better protection for children then we are all in favour but it should never have come to this. Everything was in place and ready to go. Children who could have been protected from truly horrific sexual images will instead be exposed to them. That cannot be right.”
– John Carr OBE, Secretary of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety

There are of course several problems with the proposed age verification checks for blocking porn, not least of which is habitually kids today aren’t browsing websites and they’re just as likely to be groomed on Snapchat or other social sites and that’s where they may in fact be in most danger of being exposed to less than desirable content. It’s worth noting that age verification is something children actively laugh in the face of and think nothing of lying about their age to bypass the blocks, or indeed simply use VPN tunnelling to access sites in other territories totally bypassing any restrictions.

It’s worth noting that marketplaces generally insist that you must be 18 have an account, but how many under age eBay sellers have you heard of over the years? Should eBay et al also be introducing robust age verification to enforce the age requirement and how annoying would it be if every site you signed up to required you to verify your age on a regular basis?

There is also the issue of shared devices and how age verification will work there. You can be pretty sure that once the majority of adults have age verification there will be creep from porn to perhaps access to 18 films, purchasing certain products online and a whole load of other restrictions. How will this work for instance with smart speakers where one day an adult might wish to re-order contraceptives and the next day a child also be using the same smart device?

Of course we should be protecting vulnerable children from accidentally stumbling across porn, but the reality is that it’s the kids that actively go looking for it that will simply find ways around any age verification and in the mean time all of us will be screwed trying to verify our age to access a whole load of content and products which aren’t porn but will inevitably be drawn into the age verification arena.

It might be easy to say that it should all start with parental supervision of children’s internet access, but the genie is out of the bottle and often the kids are way more sophisticated than their parents. That leaves the dilemma of how to protect them without screwing the entire adult population with checks.

Would you support age verification for porn, knowing it’s likely to migrate to age verification for all? Or is there a better way to protect children that will actually work for those actively trying to view adult content rather than those who weren’t going to stumble across it anyway?

  • james
    2 months ago

    Pretty much nailed it on the head, was a stupid and ill-thought out idea to start with, rushed into law before they thought to look at the practicality, and rushed back out again before realising they can’t legally just un-law a law like that.

    There was some research done a while back, one way to massively reduce road crash fatalities, almost eliminate them entirely in fact.
    Put a big dirty spike in the middle of the steering wheel, where your airbag would be. if you crash you are definitely going to die. horribly.
    Nobody speeds in that situation, nobdoy applies make up on the motorway, everybody drives real damn careful and so nobody crashes.

    So why aren’t we doing that then? the benefits are clear! think of the children!
    because it’s bloody stupid that’s why. the benefits do not outweigh the consequences, and that’s thousands of human lives we’re talking about, not teenagers eyeballs, which, we all know, are going to find porn anyway. let’s not sell 8 year old hustler in the local newsagent, but also accept that the days of finding someone’s uncle’s stash of old mags down the woods (the correct and proper right of passage into adolescence) is long gone, and accept that kids will, if they want to, find porn one way or another. its all part of puberty, we can’t stop it, and making everyone else’s lives harder in the process isn’t an answer.

  • robin
    2 months ago

    Where are parents ? Isn’t it their job to teach kids what is right and what is wrong ?

    Where are teachers and schools ?

    • Jon
      2 months ago

      completely agree

    • 2 months ago

      In my view, regulators could make a good start by removing soft porn (babestation and the like) from default freeview channels which appear on every TV in every kid’s bedroom.

      Consumers can’t delete these channels, they come back as soon as the TV updates itself. Why worry about porn on the net when 10 year old boys are watching regulator sanctioned gyrating half naked women in their beds every night?

    • Rob
      2 months ago

      @Robin, teachers and schools are busy teaching english and maths. They don’t have time to teach a child not to watch porn or only play age appropriate computer games, don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol, how to drive safe . Some children aged 4 aren’t even toilet trained by the time they reach school. Parents need to take more responsibility and start spending time with their children and then they make better decisions.

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