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Online Safety

Minister sorry’ for porn age-check delay

18 July 2019

On Monday this week, the Government apologised for the six-month delay to the introduction of age-verification on pornographic websites.

The new system had been due to take effect on 15 July, but last month the Government announced a fresh delay because they had failed to inform European regulators about the scheme.

Margot James, who resigned on Thursday and who was formerly the Digital Minister told the BBC on Monday: “I’m extremely sorry that there has been a delay. I know it sounds incompetent. Mistakes do happen and I’m terribly sorry it happened in such an important area.”

The Government have suggested the scheme will hopefully be ready in ‘six months’ time’.

Background: how age-verification will work

In 2017, Parliament voted to bring in new age verification (AV) measures to restrict children’s access to “adult-only” commercial pornographic websites through Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act (DEA) 2017.

A new, age-verification regulator has been created and in February 2018, Parliament agreed the regulator would be the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Websites who fail to comply with the scheme will face being blocked by internet service providers.

Under the scheme, anyone who wishes to access porn on designated websites must prove they are 18 and over to do so. This will be done through a special, non-graphic landing page where users can upload official proof, be it a passport, driving licence or credit card.

If people do not wish to upload such information online, they have the option of buying a PortesCard from a local shop: "Once a card or voucher is purchased, its unique validation code must be activated via the Portes app within 24 hours before expiring."

Our view

A major study by the NSPCC in 2016 showed that children are more likely to stumble across pornography accidently than actually seek it out. In turn, this then damages their understanding of sex and relationships. At CARE, we believe that in the digital age, age-verification is one key way of reducing this sort of thing from happening.

Polling we commissioned back in 2015 also revealed the proposals are very popular with the public at large. You can also listen to our Deputy Director of Public Affairs, Chris Buttenshaw explain more about how the scheme will help protect children and young people from harmful and explicit content online.

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For children and young people, access to harmful online content is only a click away. CARE is working towards a society where they are as well-protected online as they are offline.

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