Get your credit cards ready: ‘Draconian’ new UK porn law is coming in April

Socalled gay porn mid life celebration

The UK has announced its new porn law will be officially coming in April.

Anyone wishing to view a site that is at least one-third pornographic must prove their age.

One publisher, who has chosen to close down a magazine over the law, has called the law ‘draconian’.

Consumers of pornography are concerned about potential data hacks or their habits tracked by the government.

Government sources suggest the way porn sites will verify viewers’ ages is by requiring users to input bank card details.

Why is the UK introducing this porn law?

A passport and a cellphone with a porn performer

You may soon have to upload photo ID to view porn in the UK (Photo: David Hudson | Image still: @menoffalcon | Instagram Model: @Drake_000)

The UK’s Conservative government wants to make the internet a safer place for children. It wants to ensure it’s more difficult for minors to access adult content. This includes pornography.

The new Online Pornography (Commercial Basis) Regulations are part of the Digital Economy Act 2017. However, it’s taken time to work out the kinks.

Technology experts have also prompted fears over surveillance, cyber security, and blackmail.

In the same way that websites showing pirated material are shut down, porn websites that don’t take steps to verify the age of viewers will be closed.

Once the act comes into force, the Government has tasked the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) with monitoring that the sites comply. The BBFC is the agency that gives age ratings to movies.

To prove their age, users will be able to take advantage of several verification systems. One of the government’s approved methods will be AgeID. This is a system run by MindGeek, one of the biggest companies behind internet porn. It owns PornHub, YouPorn and XTube, among others.

Affected websites 

The change will directly affect commercial porn websites. These will begin utilizing one of the age verification methods for users in the UK.

James Clark, Director of Communications at AgeID, told GSN what sort of proof would be needed.

‘We have been working with multiple third-party verifiers utilizing verification methods such as a Mobile SMS, credit card, passport and driving license. However, guidance pertaining to which age verification methods will be compliant with the law has yet to be ratified by parliament. Therefore AgeID will adapt once finalized.’

However, besides commercial porn sites, the impact on social media remains unclear. The Digital Economy Act allows them exemptions.

Although Tumblr recently announced it was removing adult content, and Facebook has also tightened up its community guidelines to bar ‘explicit sexual activity’, pornographic content remains rife on Twitter.

A Twitter spokesperson told GSN it was mindful of protecting young people from adult content. However, ‘there is no simple solution to age verification, and while Twitter is not a service that has a youthful audience, we still have a responsibility as an industry player to contribute to the overall health of the internet space.

‘For our part, Twitter bans adult content from advertising, and from live video, profile and header images. Safe search is also on by default. Meaning any sensitive media is hidden behind an interstitial advising viewers they will see sensitive media if they click through.’

Regardless of these safeguards, it remains very easy to look up any adult porn performer on Twitter and come across graphic content within a couple of clicks.

This is something the UK government may take further action against. It is planning to announce further legislation in its forthcoming Online Harms White Paper.

Criticism of porn law

Porn site Dirty Boyz announced its closure ahead of the new UK online porn laws

Porn site Dirty Boyz announced its closure ahead of the new UK online porn laws (Photo: Dirty Boyz)

David Bridle, the publisher of Dirty Boyz, announced in October that last month’s issue of the magazine would be its last.

He said: ‘Following the Conservative government’s decision … to press ahead with new regulations forcing websites which make money from adult content to carry an age verification system … Dirtyboyz and its website dirtyboyz.xxx have made the decision to close.

‘The new age verification system will be mostly run by large adult content companies which themselves host major “Tube” style porn sites.

He then added: ‘It would force online readers of Dirtyboyz to publicly declare themselves.’

Open Rights Group executive director,Jim Killock, told GSN the privacy of users needs protecting.

He wants tech companies and the government to ensure adults who choose to watch porn can browse anonymously.

He said: ‘‘The issue with age verification systems is that they need to know it’s you. This means there’s a strong likelihood that it will basically track you and know what you’re watching.

And that’s data that could be very harmful to people.

‘It could cause issues in relationships,’ he said.

‘Or it could see children outed to their parents. It could mean people are subjected to scams and blackmail if that data falls into criminal hands.’

Government response

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told Gay Star News: ‘Pornographic websites and age verification services will be subject to the UK’s existing high standard of data protection legislation.

‘The Data Protection Act 2018 provides a comprehensive and modern framework for data protection, with strong sanctions for malpractice and enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

It refutes the suggestion it is relying on age verification alone to keep children safe.

‘Online pornography is currently easily accessible and we are introducing measures to protect children from this.

‘The Digital Economy Act is an important step to ensure that pornographic websites either act responsibly or face the consequences, but it is not a panacea. It will go hand in hand with the other ways in which children are kept safe online.’

Author: Joe Morgan

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