Government dismisses online 'porn block'

Government dismisses online 'porn block'

The government has decided to drop the block on pornography sites in the UK unless they find an effective way of checking visitors ages.

They claimed that the delay would take six months, but Digital Secretary, Nicky Morgan confirmed that the plan would not be going forward. The controversial scheme had prompted campaigners to raise concerns that it would enable tracking of porn watchers’ identities and browsing habits, with individuals’ mains concerns being the potential for blackmail and online surveillance.

Ms Morgan in a written statement stated that the government would instead be focusing on the new “online harms” regulation to address issues caused by children accessing pornographic sites.

“The government's commitment to protecting children online is unwavering. Adult content is too easily accessed online and more needs to be done to protect children from harm,”

With the most recent delay issue being a bureaucratic failure regarding the British Board of Film Classification, which was selected as the age verification regulator.

When laying the BBFC's guidance in parliament in late 2018, the government failed to notify the European Commission as it is required of the new regulator's role, undermining the legal basis of age verification. The law was designed to cover any website that was “more than one-third pornographic” - meaning the likes of Twitter and Reddit were exempt.

Experts have suggested that the law could put government ministers and other high-profile figures at risk of blackmail if their habits were observed by hackers. Figures released in 2018 revealed that there were roughly 160 attempts a day to access blocked pornographic websites within parliament in the year before.

In addition to increasing the risk of legitimate adult viewers of pornography, academic research and technology experts warned that the measures would not necessarily protect children from adult material. The UK’s domestic pornography industry expressed that they would also be put at risk by age verification laws.

Pandora/Blake, feminist pornography and obscenity lawyer and Myles Jackman spoke with Sky News and have said that the plan would harm small businesses and diminish the freedom of expression by allowing multinational pornography to take over the industry.

Many of the popular pornographic sites and production studios are owned by one company, MindGeek. MindGeek are already dominating the market and have considered to increase its share by offering age verification services to smaller sites. 

Mr Jackman notified that “the consequences socially, are extreme risk of privacy loss to any person who participates in the age verification system in order to access pornography”. 

He then added that he has been told by ‘MindGeek’ that 20 to 25 million adult users will sign up to age verification by their estimation in the first month that age verification comes online. As a consequence of that, on the basis that they do not have the greatest history of data security...there’s a high probability that those people are risking putting their private sexual proclivities in the public domain.”

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