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Online Safety

Tech Companies launch legal action over failure to introduce online porn ban

17 January 2020

The Government is facing a legal challenge from four age verification companies over its failure to implement age-checks on pornographic websites.

The judicial review was lodged at the High Court yesterday.

It follows the decision last October by the Culture Secretary to drop plans to introduce mandatory age-checks on online pornography in a bid to protect young people online.

According to the Telegraph, who broke the story, the companies are arguing the decision was an ‘abuse of power’ as the move had been approved by Parliament.

They are also claiming damages for losses sustained during the development of age verification technology. The companies have spent millions creating the necessary technology.

The scheme was passed as part of the Digital Economy Act in December 2018. But there then followed a series of delays throughout 2019.

Finally, the Government said it was abandoning the scheme and would instead look to incorporate it into proposed online harms legislation.

The judicial review is being backed by the Children’s Charities’ Coalition for Internet Safety (CCCIS). John Carr OBE said: “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.”

Stuart Lawley, the CEO of AVSecure said: “It is time for the Government to do the right thing. We would sooner they issue a new start date and I would drop my claims and get on with it. We are millions of pounds out of pocket, me personally millions, we have people who don’t have jobs anymore as a result of this.”

One way the Government could set an implementation date is to accept Baroness Howe’s Digital Economy Act (Commencement of Part 3) Bill which is due to have its First Reading in the House of Lords next week.

Her Digital Economy Act 2017 (Commencement of Part 3) Bill would require a date to be set for age checks to start.

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