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Online safety regime must be tougher on internet pornography - charity

Online Safety
13 January 2022

Press release: 13 Jan 2022

GOVERNMENT online safety proposals do not go far enough when it comes to regulating pornography, and safeguards must be implemented whilst the plans are being debated, CARE has said.

List porn as a ‘harm’

In a statement today, CARE argues that pornography should be listed as a specific “harm” in the online safety regime given strong evidence of its impact on children, and links to sexual violence.

A Joint Committee report on the draft Online Safety Bill, due to be debated this afternoon, made several welcome recommendations.

One of these was that a list of harms be written into the Bill. However, pornography was not specifically mentioned.

James Mildred, Chief Communications Officer at CARE, commented:

“There is a substantial body of evidence suggesting that exposure to pornography is harmful to children and young people. It is shown to have a damaging impact on young people’s views of sex or relationships.

“The Women and Equalities Committee has also warned of pornography’s impact on women and girls, noting a clear link between the consumption of porn and sexually aggressive behaviours, including violence’.

“It is imperative that pornography be treated as a separate and significant driver of harm by the government.”
James Mildred CARE

Empower ISPs

CARE is also concerned that the governments online safety plans will not be as robust as previous legislation in tackling extreme and violent pornography.

Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 would have ushered in tough regulation of this content, but it was never enacted by Ministers.

Mr Mildred added:

“Under part 3 of the Digital Economy Act, Internet Service Providers were placed under a duty to ensure harmful content was blocked. CARE remains concerned that the Online Safety Bill will not be as robust in this regard.

“The Joint Committee recommend that the Bill should require OFCOM to draft a code of conduct for ISPs to ensure that they deal with unlawful content. It is not clear what should be included in that code of conduct.

“CARE recommends that the code of conduct be expanded to include harmful content and ISPs be placed under an obligation to remove or block content that is harmful, including violent or extreme pornography.”
James Mildred CARE

Enact interim safeguards

CARE has also stressed the need for “interim safeguards” whilst the online safety bill is being considered by parliament. CARE wants to see robust age verification to stop children accessing pornographic websites.

Age verification was agreed under Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act and has been backed by senior figures including the Children’s Commissioner for England. Mr Mildred continued:

“The Joint Committee has recommended that age verification be in place within 6 months of the Online Safety Bill receiving Royal Assent. If that timeline was to be achieved, age verification for pornographic websites would be finally introduced by government 7-8 years after it was first enacted by Parliament.

“Age verification could and should be in place now because of measures contained in Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act. It is deeply concerning to us and many others that this is not the case.

“It is imperative that the Government immediately sets out its proposals for interim provisions to ensure that children and young people are protected online since the Bill may not be implemented until at least 2024.”
James Mildred CARE


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: // 07384467819

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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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