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Poll finds 8 in 10 people back mandatory age checks for online pornography

Online Safety
17 June 2021
Age verification phone

> 8 in 10 say age verification should be introduced to protect kids

> 8 in 10 believe access to online porn should only be for over-18s

> Peer urges government to act in defence of children and women

> Solicitor behind JR action says failure to act 'astonishing'

Eight in ten UK adults want the Government to implement age verification controls for access to online pornography, new polling shows. And the same proportion of adults think there should be an age limit of 18 for access to pornography sites.

The news comes amidst growing criticism of UK Ministers for failing to implement legislation approved by Parliament in 2017 to usher in age checks and regulation of porn sites.

Summary of findings

The Savanta poll of more than 2,100 UK adults, commissioned by Christian charity CARE, found:

  • 81% of UK adults agree with the statement: ‘The government should implement age verification to protect children from all online pornography’. 13% disagree. 6% don’t know;
  • 79.5% of UK adults agree with the statement: ‘There should be an age limit of 18 years for access to online pornography’. 14% disagree. 7% don’t know.

* See Notes for Editors for more information

‘Writing on the wall' for Ministers - Nola Leach

Commenting on the findings, Chief Executive of CARE Nola Leach said:

“In recent weeks, parliamentarians, charities and women’s groups have urged the government to restrict access to online pornography sites by implementing age verification. This polling shows that the public overwhelmingly agrees.

“At present, children across the UK can access porn sites easily. When they do, they are exposed to a catalogue of vile, degrading, and violent content. Practically nothing has been done by legislators to prevent access to commercial sites.

“Worse than this, the UK Government is refusing to implement age verification measures approved by parliament in 2017 that are sitting on the statute book ready to be brought into force.

“After this study, the writing is surely on the wall for Ministers. They must act in the interests of children and introduce this safeguard without delay.”

Lord Morrow of Clogher Valley: Parliamentarians must join forces

DUP Peer Lord Morrow is among those at Westminster calling on the government to act. Last week, he introduced member’s legislation to force Ministers to implement age verification and regulation of commercial pornography sites. Commenting on the poll, Lord Morrow said:

“This poll puts beyond doubt that the Government’s decision not to implement age checks via Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act doesn’t sit well with the public. People want to see under-18s protected from pornographic websites, which they recognise to be harmful to children and young people.

“My member’s legislation – the Digital Economy Act (Implementation Part 3) Bill – would require the Government to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act, which Parliament passed in 2017, no later than June 2022, providing protection for children in the interim period between that point and when the promised Online Safety Bill, and its secondary legislation, become law and have been implemented, in three or four years’ time.

“I call on parliamentarians of all stripes to row in behind my legislation. It is past time we acted to protect children from pornographic websites.”

Court action against UK Government looming

Student campaigner Ava Vakil

The government is also facing a legal challenge over failure to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act. Father Ioannis Dekas and student campaigner Ava Vakil are claimants in judicial review proceedings announced in May. Paul Conrathe, solicitor with Sinclairslaw, is bringing the legal action. He commented:

“Despite it being the clear will of Parliament that Age Verification should be put in place as soon as possible back in 2017, the Government have failed to act. It is astonishing that faced with clear evidence that online violent pornography is widely accessed by children and harmful to them the Government dithers and prevaricates. The findings of this poll vividly show the depth of concern felt by people at the harm that is being experienced by children and the need for Age Verification.”

Scottish parliamentarians urge action

Earlier this month, a motion in the Scottish Parliament supported by 14 MSPs urged UK Ministers to enforce Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act. Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said:

“How we keep our children safe online should be an absolute priority, so the failure to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 is a terrible reflection on the UK Government.

“Access to some of the most violent forms of illegal pornography normalises violence against women and girls at a young age, and will perpetuate the scandal of women in our society suffering abuse, violence and sexual attacks.

“The long list of those calling for the implementation should be a wake up call that this legislation needs to be enacted and enforced immediately, and I wholeheartedly support this call to action.”

Peers, charities and women's groups write to Prime Minister

In May, a letter to the Prime Minister from Baroness Floella Benjamin signed by 60 groups and individuals including children's charities and women's groups warned that the failure to implement Part 3 has become "unsustainable".

The letter cited evidence that pornography consumption is fuelling sexual violence against women and girls, brought into sharp relief after the tragic death of Sarah Everard. It stated:

“The last two months have raised very serious concerns about the safety of women and children in relation to sexual violence. While it is too early to talk in depth about what happened to Sarah Everard, it is clear from the outpouring of stories from women across the country following her death that a very large proportion of attacks on women are sexually motivated.

“We have also witnessed the impact of the 'Everyone's Invited' website, with over 10,000 rape culture testimonies and revelations about its impact on children through the recent Centre for Social Justice report.”

“In this context, given the growing body of research (including research commissioned by the Government) demonstrating a clear association between pornography consumption and a higher incidence of violence against women and girls, the failure to implement Part 3, in the absence of alternative protections, has become unsustainable.”


Notes for Editors

For interview requests or more information please contact Jamie Gillies: // 07384467819

CARE is a well-established mainstream Christian charity providing resources and helping to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives. CARE is represented in the UK Parliaments and Assemblies.

Full results

'The government should implement age verification to protect children from all online pornography’.

Strongly agree: 54.1%

Agree: 26.9%

Disagree: 9.1%

Strongly disagree: 3.8%

Don't know: 6%

'There should be an age limit of 18 years for access to online pornography'.

Strongly agree: 49.5%

Agree: 30%

Disagree: 10.6%

Strongly disagree: 3.2%

Don't know: 6.7%

Savanta carried out online polling of 2,122 UK adults between Friday 11 and Sunday 13 June 2021. For full data tables, please contact Jamie Gillies.

About Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act

Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 was designed to compel commercial pornography websites to verify the age of their visitors, thereby barring access to children. It also sought to establish a regulator, empowered to take robust action against any site showing illegal ‘extreme pornography,’ which normalises violence against women.’

Part 3 was supported by children’s charities, women’s groups, campaigners, and parliamentarians on all sides. However, it has never been brought into force. Now the government intends to repeal it - ironically, through its new 'online safety' proposals.

Ministers claim that new online safety proposals supersede Part 3. However, the online safety proposals focus on platforms which host 'user generated content' and will not apply to all commercial pornography sites. It also fails to compel all sites to verify the age of users.

Useful links

* Sexual harassment amongst children fuelled by govt inaction on porn sites – campaigners say

* Press release: Bill to close online pornography loophole welcomed by campaigners

* Press release: MSPs slam UK Government for failing to implement online pornography safeguards

* Press release: Campaigners urge cross-party action to close 'dangerous porn loophole'

* Press release: Fury as ‘online safety’ legislation waters down porn protections for children

* Press release: Women’s groups, children's charities, teachers & Peers urge PM to back porn curbs

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