Age Verification Delayed on Adult Industry Content in U.K.
Mainly thanks to privacy concerns, the United Kingdom did not enact their age verification regulations on July 15, 2019 as was originally set forth by the British government.
The measure, sometimes referred to as the UK porn block, was created to prevent children under the age of 18 from accessing pornography and adult content online. Users would be asked to prove they’re over 18 through official identification, with private companies providing the official verification.
The delay arose when the British government discovered they had failed to tell the European Commission about the details of the policy, which will delay implementation by about six months.
According to The New York Times, Jeremy Wright, the secretary of state for the Culture Department in Britain, told Parliament, “It has come to my attention in recent days that an important notification process was not undertaken for an element of this policy, and I regret to say that this will delay the commencement date.”
The Times reported that the delay should take up to six months, while Verge is reporting that the delay is “indefinite.”
And since the UK is slated to leave the European Union in October, before the notification period is over, does this mean the UK will just wait until October to implement it, or will it sit in bureaucratic limbo as the regulators are unsure of how to proceed? Implementing the policy in October seems to be the commonsense choice, so don’t expect the policy to be held off indefinitely.
Age Verification Carries Plenty of Controversy
The UK porn block has many people concerned, especially among privacy advocates, academics, and the porn industry as a whole. There is concern that this can lead to serious privacy violations as well as the potential for blackmail over the viewing habits of Britain’s citizens.
Additionally, it’s easy to work around blocks in the UK just through the use of a virtual private network (VPN) as a way to disguise the user’s country of origin. Just select your server as being from another country, and users can still access UK content or even access content outside the country.
And when you consider that the ban does not apply to sites like Twitter or several Tumblr alternatives (Tumblr itself banned adult images of any kind, not just porn, in December 2018), then it puts the onus on the privately-owned age verification systems to monitor all traffic.
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Secretary Wright also mentioned in his remarks to Parliament that there is “nothing to stop responsible providers of online pornography implementing age verification mechanisms on a voluntary basis,” but none of them appear to be stepping up.
Finally, while compliance with the regulations is required, the British Board of Film Classification (the regulator that will oversee compliance) is offering voluntary certification for age verification companies. However, some companies are refusing to participate. One company, 18+, has said they offer better protection with their digital wallet, but that they would not qualify for certification because their approach does not fit within the board’s requirements.
The UK porn block may not be going into effect just yet, but that doesn’t mean the issue is dead. Adult entertainment providers shouldn’t plan on this going away anytime soon, and should continue to adopt the technology and processes to comply with the new regulations.