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New online harms proposals: what about online pornography?

Online Safety
15 December 2020
Online Safety 28p429 Resources 0 4

The UK Government has said it will introduce new legislation in the new year to address online harms.

All tech platforms (including social media platforms) will have duty of care to protect children using their services and firms will face fines of up to 10% of turnover or the blocking of there sites if they fail to protect young people.

The new laws will also contain free speech protections to ensure they are proportionate and do not infringe on freedom of expression.

What about com­mer­cial, online porn?

While its proposals for a new online harms bill do address some significant issues, the apparent failure to properly tackle online, commercial pornography is a real problem.

Under the Digital Economy Act 2017, the plan was to introduce age verification to stop young people under 18 from accessing commercial pornography.

MPs and Peers voted for these measures and approved the regulations to put age verification into effect.

However, on 16 October 2019, the Government suddenly announced it was dropping its proposals and would instead address commercial online pornography through its new online harms bill.

CARE spoke out at the time and since then has consistently argued that the Government is failing young people by delaying age verification.

Given the amount of time it will take for the new online harms legislation to pass through Parliament and become law, it could be 3 years before protections are in place.

All the while, children remain exposed to online, commercial porn, with all the damage this does.

Pub­lic sup­port age verification

Polling for CARE showed the public are in favour of introducing age verification to protect children from commercial online pornography now, rather than waiting for the new online harms bill.

In a recent debate in the House of Commons, MPs also criticised the Government over its failure to introduce age verification.

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Respond­ing to the Gov­ern­ment’s online harms pro­pos­als, CARE CEO Nola Leach said:

“Today the Government has not published its Online Harms Bill, just its response to the Online Harms White paper.

"There will be now be a delay until the Bill is published and then very properly the Bill will need to be scrutinised fully by both Houses of Parliament and passed.

"It will probably be at least three years before the protections afforded by the Online Harms Bill are felt.

"In this context and when Parliament has already passed legislation to protect children from accessing pornographic web sites which could be implemented within a matter of months, the obvious way forward is for the Government to now implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act as an urgent interim measure."

Watch CARE’s James Mil­dred, Lyn­don Bowring and Naked Truth’s Ian Hende­r­son dis­cuss pro­tect­ing chil­dren 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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