On Wednesday, MPs challenged the Government on age verification during a Westminster Hall debate on online harms.
Responding to several petitions calling for the law to clamp down on online abuse, MPs debated various aspects of online harms — particularly the significant effect they have on children and young people.
Impact on children highlighted
Holly Lynch MP, who arranged the debate, quoted statistics from the NSPCC, which found that in the first three months of 2020, online sex crimes recorded against children surpassed 100 a day— roughly one every 14 minutes.
She called on the Government to 'tighten up' the rules on internet use, in order to more effectively protect children:
Age-verification consistently raised
Several MPs raised the issue of age-verification, a scheme that would have gone some way in protecting children online from harmful content — introduced by the Digital Economy Act 2017, but dropped by the Government last year.
The Government have proposed that they will adopt a more holistic approach to online safety through their Online Harms Bill, despite the fact they have legislation ready to go to implement age-verification immediately.
Ms Lynch challenged the Government on the significant lack of clarity as to why this was dropped and it would be resolved through the Online Harms Bill.
Fiona Bruce MP challenged the Government on their failure to implement this scheme despite it being a Manifesto Commitment. She called on them to implement age-verficiation immediately and to introduce additional online safety protection through their proposed Online Harms Bill.
According to Mrs Bruce, the Government's delay in providing their proposed alternative to age-verification means children will continue to lack protection online until at least 2023 — six years after age-verification was voted for by the Commons.
She mentioned the result of polling, conducted in mid-September, which showed a large proportion of adults want to see age-verification introduced:
Several other MPs, including Maria Miller and Carla Lockhart, also criticised the Government for the lack of comprehensive reasoning behind their approach to abandon age-verification.
CARE provided briefings for many of the MPs involved in the debate and we are incredibly grateful for their contributions and for taking a stand on this issue.
Whilst the Government want to take a more holistic approach to tackle this issue, we sincerely hope they will take into account how their delay will impact children's safety online.
As Fiona Bruce argued, there is no clear reason why the Government cannot implement age-verification now, and improve online safety through this legislation.
This latest polling shows it is clearly what the public want, and the Government's continued delay just leaves children vulnerable to harmful content online for longer.
Read more: 5 ways online porn harms your child
Join our campaign: Help Protect Children from Online Porn