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Culture Minister admits online safety plans weak on pornography

Online Safety
23 November 2021
Nadine Dorries MP

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries MP has admitted that government online safety proposals fail to protect children from online porn.

Speaking to a parliamentary committee scrutinising the Online Safety Bill, Ms Dorries confirmed that the plans as currently drafted “will not stop anybody accessing commercial pornography”. She said:

“It does not prevent children accessing commercial pornography, all as a result of algorithms.

“Young children who may explore pornography online find themselves bombarded with images on their phones as a result of algorithms.”

The Minister added that the government would consider amendments to the bill to write in more specific protections:

“It is my mission to ensure that a child’s innocence is not wiped away by an algorithm. I do not believe that the Bill goes far enough in preventing children from accessing commercial pornography.

“That is tied into age verification and there are elements of that that I have asked officials, subject to parliamentary counsel and write-around, to look at further, to see whether we can do more.

“I realise that there is a gap. I am not going to call it a loophole. There is a gap, and I think we need to close that gap somehow if we can.”

CARE campaigned for Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017, which would have ushered in mandatory age checks to prevent children accessing all commercial porn sites.

The legislation, agreed by parliament in 2017 but later scrapped by the UK Government, would also have established a regulator to scrutinise and punish sites that host ‘extreme’ content.

A CARE spokesman said:

“It is good that Ms Dorries has recognised the obvious flaws in the government’s online safety plans. There is currently no requirement to block sites that host extreme pornographic content, and it is not clear which sites, if any, will be subject to age verification safeguards.

“We have proposed a better solution. It will be some time before the online safety regime is in place — if it is agreed at all. We urge the government to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act now, rather than wait for its Online Safety Bill to clear all the parliamentary hurdles.”

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