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Govt must enforce pornography safeguards whilst online safety plans being considered

Online Safety
14 December 2021
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CARE has welcomed recommendations on pornography from a parliamentary committee but stressed the need for 'interim measures' to protect children and curb ‘extreme’ content whilst online safety legislation is considered.

Today, a Joint Committee at Westminster published its pre-legislative scrutiny of the government’s draft Online Safety Bill. It provided a series of recommendations to Ministers, who will review the report and bring forward updated legislation next year.

The recommendations relating to pornography include age verification measures to prevent children stumbling across explicit content. The Committee also recommends measures to curb “extreme” pornography that glorifies violence.

This morning, a spokesperson for CARE, which campaigns for age safety measures and tougher regulation of porn sites, commented:

“The recommendations on pornography from the Joint Committee are welcome, and we hope they will inspire positive movement from the government as it reconsiders the shape of its online safety plans. The most important consideration now is what the government will do to protect children and curb material glorifying sexual violence against women and girls in the interim period before its online safety proposals become law. It could be several years until that happens – if it happens.

“The committee recommends that robust age verification measures should be in place within ‘three to six months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent’. This is far too long for children to wait for the protection they desperately need. Children are accessing pornography in the UK on a regular basis. And we know that pornography consumption is feeding a disturbing culture of sexual harassment and abuse in schools and wider society. The stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to curbing underage access.

“Age verification was legislated for by Parliament in 2017, through Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act. This legislation was just never enforced by Ministers. Children have already been waiting four years for protection they should have had in 2017. The same applies to regulation of ‘extreme’ pornography, which again was approved by MPs in 2017. Children and women desperately need these safeguards. They cannot wait another two or three years for them, and shouldn't have to given they're alreadt on the statute book.

“We call on the government to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act as an interim measure whilst its online safety plans are considered. This legislation has been approved – it’s on the shelf and ready to go. Democracy requires that it be enforced. Refusing to do so thwarts the will of parliament. If Ministers do not want to enforce Part 3, they must explain why and provide for other statutory measures to protect children and curb extreme porn over the next two years as online safety legislation is scrutinised by parliamentarians.

“Loopholes allowing children to access pornography and sites to glorify sexual violence can and must be closed before the online safety regime is in place."

ENDS

Notes for Editors:

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.

For interview requests or more information please contact Jamie Gillies: jamie.gillies@care.org.uk

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